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Pirates, starter Maholm talk; return is unlikely

The Pirates and free-agent pitcher Paul Maholm have had discussions, but a team source confirmed Tuesday that his return to Pittsburgh is highly unlikely.

Management continues to seek to add to its rotation, but any additions probably will come from nonroster invitees or means other than a high-profile free agent. The rotation currently is made up of Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, James McDonald, Charlie Morton and recently signed Erik Bedard. The depth tails off from there, though, and Morton's status is unclear coming off offseason hip surgery.

Maholm has consistently maintained his openness to staying with the Pirates, who made him a first-round draft pick in 2003, and that remains the case.

Neither side is closing the matter, but the Pirates seem largely set with their roster.

Maholm, 29, became a free agent in October when management bought out his $9.75 million club option. He was coming off a season in which he was 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA. That included going 0-5 with a 5.75 ERA after the All-Star break and spending the final month on the disabled list — a career first — because of a strained left shoulder.

Among the potentially less-expensive starters still available in free agency are Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf, Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, Armando Galarraga and Brandon Webb.

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