By John Perrotto
The Pirates will be looking for three things when teams can begin negotiating with free agents from other clubs on Sunday—pitching, pitching and more pitching. In particular, they would like to add two starters as the only certainties in the 2011 rotation are left-hander Paul Maholm and right-handers James McDonald and Ross McDonald.
While the Pirates won’t be player for the top-tier free agents, they will have enough wiggle room in the budget to take a shot on some pitchers who are either coming off down seasons or injuries with the hope that they can rebound and, if nothing else, provide some innings to stabilize the rotation and take some pressure on a bullpen that is also unsettled beyond right-handers Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek.
Here are five starting pitchers the Pirates are said to have some degree of interest in and some hope of being able to sign:
–Jeremy Bonderman. He has won a combined 11 games for Detroit over the last three seasons after winning at least 11 in each of the previous four years as he has been hampered by arm problems. However, the right-hander did pitch 171 innings this season, going 8-10 with a 5.53 ERA in 29 starts, and is still relatively young at 28.
–Dave Bush. The right-hander pitched 174 1/3 innings for Milwaukee this year and went 8-13 with a 4.54 ERA. While the numbers aren’t overly impressive, he is only 30 and does not have a history of arm problems. Bush was born in Pittsburgh but don’t expect any hometown discounts as he moved from South Park to suburban Philadelphia when he was 3 and has no family in the area.
–Doug Davis. The left-hander was limited to eight starts and 38 1/3 innings this year for the Brewers as he was sidelined by inflammation of the lining around his heart and finished 1-4 with a 7.51 ERA. The 35-year-old pitched 203 1/3 innings for Arizona in 2009, though, and has worked at least 192 innings in five of the last seven seasons.
–Jon Garland. The 31-year-old right-hander has quietly had a solid career with 131 victories in 11 seasons, including a 14-12 mark with a 3.47 ERA in 32 starts with San Diego this year. Garland if nothing is reliable as he has pitched at least 191 innings in each of the last nine seasons.
–Kevin Millwood. He is coming off a season where he led the American League in losses, going 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA in 31 starts. However, the 35-year-old pitched 190 1/3 innings and has been good for at least 168 innings in eight of the last nine seasons.