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Marte, Nieve, D. Brown signed by Pirates

Marte, Nieve, D. Brown signed by Pirates

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PITTSBURGH -- Once listed as one of baseball's top prospects, Andy Marte has signed a Minor League deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to Spring Training. Marte is one of three Minor League signings the Pirates announced on Wednesday. Right-handed pitcher Fernando Nieve and catcher Dusty Brown also inked deals with the club.

Ranked by Baseball America as one of the top 15 prospects from 2004-06, Marte has yet to find his footing in the Majors. He was the Braves' No. 1 prospect in '05 and held that spot in the Red Sox's organization when he was traded there for shortstop Edgar Renteria in December '05. Marte was almost immediately flipped to Cleveland, where he remained until he was outrighted by the Indians last month.

Marte, 27, has appeared in the big leagues in each of the past six seasons, though he has never played in more than 80 games. After batting .229 in 170 at-bats in '10, Marte pushed his career average in 301 games to .218. He has a career .277 on-base percentage and 20 home runs.

"Sometimes guys click with a new opportunity," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Our scouts still see the power. We thought it was worth the chance."

Marte played third base almost exclusively in the Minors, though he did log significant time at first with Cleveland in each of the past two seasons. Huntington said that Marte will come to camp competing for a spot on the big league roster as a utility corner infielder.

As of now, Huntington said the plan is to have Nieve stretch himself out as a starter in Spring Training. He will be a candidate for the Pirates' rotation, though the club would consider putting him in a bullpen role if that turns out to be the best fit.

"He has a big arm and just a matter of consistency in the zone," Huntington said. "It's just been consistency in the zone."

Of Nieve's 99 career Major League appearances, just 19 have come as a starter. The 28-year-old right-hander appeared in 40 games (one start) with the Mets last season. He allowed 28 earned runs on 37 hits in 42 innings. Nieve issued 22 walks, while striking out 38.

He has a career 4.61 ERA with the Mets (2009-10) and Houston (2006, '08). Nieve's splits against right-handed and left-handed hitters are fairly equivalent, with right-handed batters owning a .249 career average against him compared to the .256 average compiled by left-handed hitters.

With the recent departures of Erik Kratz and Luke Carlin, the Pirates needed to improve their catching depth this offseason. Brown, 28, appears to be a candidate to be the organization's catcher in Triple-A, which is where he has spent the majority of the past three seasons.

With Triple-A Pawtucket in '10, Brown threw out 27 percent of basestealers and batted .218 with 19 doubles and seven homers. He has 15 career at-bats with the Red Sox, who drafted Brown in the 35th round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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