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Karstens makes it official: 'This is only place I wanted to be'

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 11:10 a.m.

Jeff Karstens did not take long to decide when the Pirates offered to bring him back for the 2013 season.

“This is the only place I wanted to be,” Karstens said Thursday after signing a one-year, $2.5 million contract. “It was just a matter of finding the right opportunity.”

Since arriving in a midseason trade in 2008, the right-handed pitcher has gone 23-35 with a 4.31 ERA in 123 games (82 starts). Last year, he began the season in the starting rotation but was limited to 15 starts by shoulder inflammation and a hip pointer. He spent two months on the disabled list and ended the season by making four appearances out of the bullpen.

Karstens will go to spring training seeking to lock down a spot in the middle of the rotation. That job was supposed to go to lefty Francisco Liriano, but his free-agent deal fell through after he injured his right arm in late December.

“I'll go into camp ready to compete for whatever role they want,” Karstens said. “For me, it's not a sense of entitlement. It's about earning what you get.”

The Pirates non-tendered Karstens in November, making him a free agent. He made $3.1 million last season.

“I don't have any hard feelings,” Karstens said. “I know it's all a business.”

Karstens will spend the next couple of weeks training at Performance Compound in Tampa, Fla., before reporting to spring training camp. The Pirates' first workout for pitchers and catchers is Feb. 12.

Minor league deals

The Pirates signed first baseman/outfielder Brad Hawpe and catcher Lucas May to minor league contracts.

Both newcomers, along with minor league pitchers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, received non-roster invites to spring training.

Hawpe, 32, last played in the majors in 2011, when he hit .231 in 62 games with the Padres. Last year, he batted .260 in 35 games for the Rangers' Double-A affiliate before being released at the end of May.

In 2007, Hawpe hit .291 with 29 homers for the Rockies and received a handful of MVP votes. Two years later, he was a National League All-Star and batted .285 with 23 home runs.

The 28-year-old May played in 12 games for the Royals in 2010. He spent all of last season with the Mets' Triple-A club and hit .215 in 75 games.

Cole and Taillon are former first-round draft picks. Cole, 22, pitched last summer at High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. Combined, he went 9-7 with a 2.80 ERA and 1.197 WHIP. Taillon, 21, went a combined 9-8 with a 3.55 ERA and a 1.198 WHIP at High-A and Double-A.

General manager Neal Huntington already has indicated Cole will begin this season at Triple-A Indianapolis. If Cole shows continued progress, however, it would not be surprising to see the right-hander in the majors later this summer.

Taillon is expected to begin the season at Double-A Altoona.

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