Currently, the Pirates have most of their core of relievers back from last season. The exceptions: lefty Damaso Marte, who was traded to the Yankees in July, and right-hander Denny Bautista, who the club non-tendered last week. The Bucs also lost Franquelis Osoria and Marino Salas -- both of whom played a limited role in the '08 'pen -- to Minor League free agency.
The bullpen is the area to which Huntington remains the most hesitant to dole out significant amounts of money, largely because of the risk involved in signing relievers to long-term deals. As a result, most of the potential bullpen additions will come from players whom the Pirates sign as Minor League free agents this winter.
Pittsburgh has already done this with the signing of right-hander Brian Slocum, who will be participating in big league camp. The selection of left-hander Donnie Veal in the Rule 5 Draft also gives the Pirates another bullpen option to watch in Spring Training.
Additionally, there are a number of potential candidates whom the Bucs are known to be interested in.
The Pirates confirmed on Wednesday that they have had discussions with free-agent reliever Chris Bootcheck, who spent an injury-plagued 2008 season with the Angels. Bootcheck appeared in 10 games in '08, allowing 18 earned runs in 16 innings. In five years with the Angels, Bootcheck is 3-7 with a 6.04 ERA in 77 appearances (three starts).
MLB.com has also learned that Pittsburgh has also had its eye on burly lefty Ray King, who is currently playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. King played with three different organizations in 2008, but spent the majority of the year in Triple-A. He did parlay a Minor League contract and invite to Spring Training by the Nationals last winter into an Opening Day roster spot.
Derrick Turnbow, who has experienced serious control problems while with the Brewers in recent years, is also on the Pirates' wish list, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday. The newspaper reported that five teams are pursuing Turnbow, with one of them -- not the Pirates -- having already given the right-hander a Major League contract offer.
Turnbow made just eight Major League appearances last season and allowed 11 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. He was designated for assignment by the Brewers one month into the season, and ended his 2008 campaign early when he was diagnosed with a slight labrum tear in his right shoulder.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less