Both Yates and Cotts had their 2009 seasons end prematurely due to Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Cotts underwent the procedure on July 2 and Yates followed with his surgery 12 days later. Because it typically takes 12-18 months for a full recovery from Tommy John surgery, the Pirates are eyeing both relievers as potential fits to return in the second half of the season.
"They'll come to Major League Spring Training for rehab and spend the better half of the [season's] first half rehabbing," Huntington said. "Both are guys who have had their surgeries signed off on by our medical staff. We felt like they were worthwhile risks."
Yates was taken off the Pirates' 40-man roster in late October and became a free agent. But there was always a mutual interest in having the right-hander return with a Minor League deal.
Yates made just 15 appearances for Pittsburgh last season before his elbow injury shut him down in mid-May. The right-hander posted a 4.66 ERA in 72 appearances for the Pirates in 2008.
Cotts became a free agent after the Cubs elected not to offer him a contract in December. Cotts was entering his second year of arbitration eligibility, but knowing the lefty would likely sit out at least half of the season, Chicago did not want to be locked into paying him anything near the $1.1 million he made last year.
Though Cotts struggled in 19 appearances with the Cubs in '09, he has a track record of success. In 2005, Cotts posted a 1.94 ERA in 69 appearances as the White Sox won the World Series. Overall, Cotts is 10-12 with a 4.63 ERA in 284 big league appearances. He had a 2.84 ERA in 12 games with Triple-A Iowa last year before undergoing surgery.
Unlike Cotts and Yates, Burres will arrive in Bradenton, Fla., with a chance at making the Pirates' roster out of Spring Training. The left-hander has experience both as a starter and reliever, and Huntington hasn't ruled out using Burres in either role, though the latter is most likely.
"It's early to say [what his role could be]," Huntington said. "He's a left-hander with an average mix of pitches. When he's good, he controls the strike zone. He has experience in the toughest division in baseball, and we think coming to the National League could be good for him."
Burres appeared in two games for Toronto last year, but spent most of the season in Triple-A, where he went 6-7 with a 4.76 ERA in 19 games (17 starts). He struck out 84 and walked 30 over 107 2/3 innings.
Prior to joining the Blue Jays last February, Burres made 79 appearances (39 starts) in parts of three seasons with the Orioles. In his 81 Major League games, Burres is 13-20 with a 6.08 ERA.
With these three additions, the Pirates have now offered 16 non-roster Spring Training invitations. Thirteen of those have been given to pitchers.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.