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Pitcher Maholm's future with Bucs uncertain

Paul Maholm, the Pirates' most-tenured pitcher, may have pitched his final game with the club.

Maholm was shut down for the rest of the season Tuesday when he was moved to the 60-day disabled list.

The 29-year-old left-hander, who will enter free agency unless the Pirates exercise their $9.75 million club option for 2012, said he will return to Mississippi later this week to prepare for the offseason. He also will re-visit Dr. James Andrews for a follow-up on the left shoulder strain that landed Maholm on the DL on Aug. 19.

Maholm, who finished 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA, said one late September start wasn't worth the risk of trying to rush back.

"I would rather pitch, but realistically I knew it was going to tough," he said. "I haven't picked up a baseball yet. I think I could probably start tossing in the next week to 10 days. Then you're talking we've got 12 days left in the season. I think it's smarter to just make sure everything is good."

Maholm was among the most consistent left-handers in the NL through July, allowing three or fewer earned runs in 16 of his 23 starts. But he went 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA and 31 hits allowed in 222.2 innings in his final four starts before heading to the DL for the first time in his six-year major league career.

Manager Clint Hurdle agreed shutting down Maholm made the most sense rather than trying to push matters to "show an industry, or anybody, 'OK, I went out and threw four more innings.' "

"Paul understood it," Hurdle said. "All he's been through and all he's done here, this is his last season. To go out with a contract still open-ended with some unanswered questions, health. We are confident that by shutting him down it will give him every opportunity to get healthy."

Maholm has made no secret he wants to return to the team that made him the No. 8 overall pick in the 2003 draft. He said if the Pirates decline to exercise the option - which certainly seems likely - he wouldn't a rule out a return to Pittsburgh as a free agent.

"We're just going to see," he said. "If I go test free agency, obviously Pittsburgh will be one of the teams that I hope wants me, and we'll see how it goes."

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