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Pirates Open to Still Adding More Pitching

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SAN DIEGO — Ben Cherington came to baseball’s Winter Meetings looking to add to the pitching staff.

The Pittsburgh Pirates general manager did just that Tuesday. The club agreed to one-year contracts with right-handed starter Vince Velasquez and left-handed reliever Jarlin Garcia as free agents.

The deals won’t be completed until the pitchers pass physicals. However, Cherington did talk about adding to the pitching staff in generalities at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

“I think we made some progress,” Cherington said. “Some steps to clear, but we feel like we made some progress, but we’re still working at that. Still looking to add to the team on the pitching and position player side.”

Cherington said he would like to continue to bolster the rotation and bullpen.

“I think we would like to come into spring training feeling like we have 10 viable starting candidates, and we’d like to go into spring training feeling like we have 15 to 20 viable relief candidates so that there can be a strong competition,” Cherington said. “It will be a great outcome for us if we have good pitchers that don’t make the team. Doesn’t mean I’m rooting against anybody, but the better pitchers we’re sending to (Triple-A Indianapolis), the better position we’re in.

“We’re trying to make that competition as stiff as we can and agree right now and we’ll continue to look to add.”

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Velasquez will make $3.15 million next season while Garcia will have a $2.35-million salary. The Pirates also hold a $3.25-million club option on Garcia for 2024.

Now 30, Velasquez has never found consistent success over his eight-year career. He has a 34-47 record and a 4.93 ERA in 183 games (136 starts) with a 1.37 WHIP while pitching for the Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, and Chicago White Sox.

Velasquez has struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings and his stuff has never been in question. However, there have long been questions about his confidence level.

Last season, Velasquez made nine starts and 18 relief appearances for the Chicago White Sox.

Garcia was not tendered a contract by the San Francisco Giants last month. He went 1-4 with one save and a 3.74 ERA in 58 relief appearances in 2022.

The 29-year-old has split his six-year career between the Miami Marlins (2017-19) and Giants (2020-22), going 17-15 with two saves and a 3.61 ERA in 285 games (seven starts). He has a 1.14 WHIP and 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings.

When Garcia officially signs, he will be the only left-hander on the 40-man roster. Cherington is open to solving the imbalance on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitching staff.

“If we can pick and choose and the talent level is close to people, we’d like to continue to add left-handed options,” Cherington said. “There was obviously no design to become as right-handed as we have. I think these things just balance out sometimes. So, we have time this winter to try to get a little more balance in that group. We’ll continue to work on that.”

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