INDIANAPOLIS — The Pittsburgh Pirates have announced the signings of five right-handed pitchers to Minor League contracts including Collin Balester, Jacob Brigham, Jay Jackson, Josh Kinney and Seth McClung. Brigham, Jackson and Kinney have also received invitations to Major League Spring Training as non-roster players.
Balester, an MLB veteran with 185.0 innings of action between Washington and Detroit, appeared in just six games last season with Triple-A Round Rock of the Pacific Coast League before undergoing season-ending surgery on his right elbow in early June. The hard-throwing righty originally broke onto the professional baseball scene heralded by Baseball America as possessing the “Best Fastball” in the National’s system in both 2004 and 2005. After five seasons in the minors, including stints with division rival Columbus, Balester made his MLB debut with Washington during the 2008 campaign and has since recorded a 7-16 record with a 5.30 ERA in 73 Major League contests (22 starts).
The 25-year-old Brigham is coming off his seventh season in the Minor Leagues and first campaign at the Triple-A level. A career starter, the Texas Rangers’ sixth-round selection in the 2006 MLB Draft has compiled a 32-49 record with a 4.41 ERA and 638 strikeouts to just 299 walks in 170 games (121 starts), including his 5-5 mark and 4.51 ERA in 26 games (18 starts) with Round Rock last season. Brigham capped off his ascension through the Rangers’ system with a selection to the 2012 Texas League Midseason All-Star game, where he tossed a scoreless inning for the TEX South squad.
Also scheduled to attend camp is Jackson, a former top prospect who was tabbed by Baseball America as both the No. 98 overall farmhand and as possessing the “Best Curveball” among Cubs prospects following the 2009 campaign. Jackson was originally selected in the 9th round of the 2008 MLB Draft by Chicago and enters the 2014 season with a 24-30 record and 5.23 ERA through 103 Triple-A games (65 starts) in the hitter-friendly PCL. The right-hander is a two-time Southern League All-Star selection with appearances in the 2009 and 2013 MidSummer Classics, earning last year’s selection with Double-A Jacksonville after he signed with Miami in the offseason.
Kinney, a World Series champion, headlines the list of recent signings as the righty reliever recorded a 3.24 ERA in 21 games during the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2006 title run. The journeyman began his professional baseball career with Independent River City in 2001 before the RedBirds purchased his contract that same season and assigned him to the Short-Season New York-Penn League. Kinney then climbed the Minor League system to reach the Majors just five years later, and in 93 career MLB games, now owns a lifetime record of 1-3 with a 4.73 ERA between St. Louis, the Chicago White Sox and Seattle. Kinney enters camp having spent the majority of last season on the disabled list with injuries to his shoulder and ribs.
Rounding out the list of recent signings is McClung, a starter who has suited up for 14 teams throughout his 14-year professional career. He was originally selected by Tampa Bay in the 5th round of the 1999 MLB Draft, and along with ranking as possessing the “Best Fastball” in the South Atlantic League by Baseball America in 2001, McClung was also named the Rays’ No. 5 overall prospect the following season. McClung has pitched in over 1,200 innings at both the Major and Minor League levels, totaling a 26-34 record with a 5.46 ERA in 51 MLB games (44 starts) and 39-53 record with a 4.08 ERA in 232 MiLB games (124 starts). He spent the entirety of last season pitching for Monterrey and Puebla of the Triple-A-equivalent Mexican League, where he combined for a 1-1 record with a 2.35 ERA in just 23.0 innings of work.
In addition to the five free agent signings, the Pirates also announced the re-signings of C Francisco Diaz, LHP Eliecer Navarro, LHP Johnathan Ramos and IF/OF Andy Vasquez prior to the free agent period.
The Pirates will officially begin 2014 Spring Training with their annual intrasqaud game on Feb. 25 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.