Slaten signed by Pirates to minor league contract

The Sports Xchange

--LHP Doug Slaten was signed to a minor league contract with a spring invitation, making him at least a depth candidate for the bullpen. Slaten, 31, missed half of last season because of elbow surgery and had a 4.41 ERA in 16 1/3 innings for the Athletics.

--RHP Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, RHP Joel Hanrahan and RHP Evan Meek signed one-year contracts to avoid arbitration. The only players unsigned past the deadline to exchange salary figures were 1B Garrett Jones and 3B Casey McGehee. Jones' presence on that list was a surprise, considering management had wavered on even tendering him.

--RHP Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in Major League Baseball's draft last June, will be one of a handful of prospects invited to spring training. Another is CF Robbie Grossman, the organization's minor league player of the year. The Pirates do this in part to reward good performance, in part to let major league coaches get some hands-on experience with the top prospects.

--RHP Chris Leroux could be a surprise starting candidate. The Pirates loved what he did down the stretch in the bullpen, and Leroux made four starts in the Dominican Winter League to show he could be stretched out. The Pirates certainly could use another arm in the mix.

--1B Derrek Lee might retire if he doesn't find a situation to his liking out of free agency. The Pirates have made multiple overtures, not least of which was tendering him an arbitration offer after he made $7.25 million last season. But he has not reciprocated that interest.

3 -- Home games in the first 15 days of the 2012 season, which could be good for weather purposes but tough for hitters since the opening series is followed by a nine-game trip to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Arizona.

"I look back at the opinions shared with me last year when I was coming in about our pitching staff, our defense and our offense. In every case, those external opinions turned out wrong." -- Manager Clint Hurdle.

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