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Sanchez, Inge make Pirates' roster

| Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 11:54 a.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Utilityman Brandon Inge will provide the Pirates with flexibility.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jonathan Sanchez went 1-9 last season but earned a spot in the rotation after a spring in which he threw two scoreless outings.

DUNEDIN, Fla. — The Pirates on Tuesday promised Opening Day roster spots to veterans Jonathan Sanchez and Brandon Inge, but the long-term prospects for both players remain in doubt.

Sanchez takes over the No. 4 spot in the starting rotation, which opened when Jeff Karstens was shut down last weekend due to a bum shoulder. Inge was handed one of the five bench jobs, even though he is likely to begin the season on the disabled list.

If the Pirates hadn't guaranteed Sanchez and Inge big league roster spots by Tuesday, both players could have either opted out of their contracts or taken a $100,000 retention fee to play in the minors.

The Pirates must make corresponding moves by Sunday to add Inge and Sanchez to the 40-man roster. With 35 players still in camp, the club must make 10 cuts before the end of spring training.

“You hate to have to carry this many players this late in camp,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “But we've had some injuries and some great competition, That's made it a challenge to work through how the different puzzle pieces fit.”

A utilityman, Inge, 35, was signed two days after camp began. He's hit .162 with no extra-base hits and no RBI in 13 Grapefruit League games. Huntington said Inge made the team based more on his 12-year track record in the majors than by his spring training stats.

Inge sustained a bone bruise on his left shoulder blade when he was hit by a pitch March 14. He's played in only four games since, and Tuesday was shut down indefinitely.

“We're going to do everything in our power to get the most productive Brandon Inge we can as quickly as possible,” Huntington said. “Whether he goes in on the DL is still to be determined, but it is an option.”

Inge's latest injury is not related to shoulder surgery performed in September. Still, Inge must prove he can be durable enough to last the whole season.

Sanchez, 30, went a combined 1-9 with an 8.07 ERA last season for the Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies. In 2009, the left-hander tossed a no-hitter for the San Francisco Giants.

“I'm happy to be here,” Sanchez said. “It was a challenge for me. I came here knowing there were a lot of pitchers here and it was going to be hard for me to make the rotation. All I could do was work hard, do my best. You've just got to have faith.”

Sanchez spun scoreless outings March 15 against Houston and March 21 against Baltimore. Tuesday, a few hours after making the team, he gave up three runs in the first inning against Toronto. Sanchez wound up working 4 23 innings and allowing four runs on seven hits. He struck out six and walked one.

The Pirates have not announced whether right-hander Kyle McPherson or lefty Jeff Locke will get the final rotation spot.

“We're basically set,” Huntington said. “It's a matter now of waiting as long as we can and putting the pieces in place with them before we announce things publicly.”

Whoever gets in now, the rotation could look markedly different by mid-June. Huntington said injured starters Francisco Liriano (broken non-throwing arm) and Charlie Morton (elbow surgery) could join the team in about eight weeks.

“If there's a legitimate chance we can have them back before June 1, we want to have them back,” Huntington said. “As we sit here right now, they both have a legitimate chance to be ready to go on or before June 1.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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