Kuwata not giving up on making Bucs

Kuwata not giving up on making Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. -- While Masumi Kuwata continues to battle for one of the final open bullpen spots, he did say on Friday that if he doesn't earn one, his dream of returning to a Major League mound won't end at the end of this month.

Kuwata, who early in Spring Training suggested the possibility of retiring if he wasn't on the team's 25-man roster by the end of Spring Training, said that voluntary retirement seems out of the question for now.

"Not yet," Kuwata said of the possibility. "I'll try to continue making the club. But after a few months, I'm not sure what [I will be] doing."

With 10 days left before Opening Day, Kuwata still has an outside chance of making the big league club. However, with the amount of competition he has, a lot would have to fall nicely into place in order for Kuwata to be given one of the four open bullpen spots.

Regardless of what the Pirates' ultimate decision is, at this point, if Kuwata is left off the Major League roster for Opening Day, it won't be because the results weren't there. The right-hander has made five Grapefruit League relief appearances this spring and has allowed just five hits and one earned run in those five innings of work.

He no longer has to worry about his surgically repaired ankle, which Kuwata reported to be near 100 percent strength again. And there has been noticeable new life on his fastball that wasn't there when the right-hander made his 19 appearances for the Pirates last summer.

If Kuwata does not start the season in the Majors, then his fate lies in the hands of Pirates management. Because the team signed Kuwata to a Minor League contract this offseason, the Pirates can offer him a spot on one of their Minor League rosters -- or they can decide to instead release him.

Knowing this, Kuwata still says he hopes to be given the chance to open the season in the Minors so that the potential of denting the Major League roster remains a possibility at midseason. But Kuwata added that he plans to cross that bridge when it's time.

"I will talk to [general manager] Neal Huntington," Kuwata said. "We will discuss my future."

One thing is certain, however. If the Pirates do not offer Kuwata the chance to join their Triple-A club, the 39-year-old Japanese pitcher will not try and join another Major League team elsewhere. That's where he plans to draw the line.

"I don't want to try going to a different team," said Kuwata, who is entering his 22nd year of professional baseball. "I play[ed] for 21 years [with] the Tokyo Giants. And I play[ed] here in the states on the Pirates. I don't want to play on any other team."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.