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Pirates notebook: McKenry healing, awaits arbitration fate

| Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, 10:36 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Michael McKenry bats in a downpour before the game is suspended during the second inning against the Brewers Sunday, June 30, 2013, at PNC Park.

Pirates catcher Michael McKenry told the Tribune-Review he is ahead of schedule in recovering from July surgery to repair a torn meniscus to his left knee, an injury that ended his 2013 season.

“Swelling has been very minimal,” said McKenry, who has been rehabbing at Middle Tennessee State. “There's really not any restrictions for the most part.”

McKenry is hoping for a bounce-back season after hitting .217 in 2013 and throwing out six of 41 base stealers before he injured his knee on an awkward slide in Miami in July.

McKenry hit 12 home runs while splitting catching duties with the Pirates in 2012 and has shown a mix of patience and power throughout his minor-league career.

Whether his career will continue with the Pirates is unclear. McKenry is eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career having earned Super Two status. The Pirates have a younger, cheaper backup catching option in Tony Sanchez behind starting catcher Russell Martin.

McKenry said he does not know if he'll be offered a contract by the Pirates for next season.

“A lot of that is completely out of your control,” McKenry said. “I love Pittsburgh, and I'd love to stay there.”

Monday marks non-tender deadline

Teams have until 11:59 p.m. Monday night to tender contracts to unsigned players under club control, including arbitration-eligible players.

In addition to McKenry, the Pirates have eight other players eligible for arbitration: pitcher Charlie Morton, first baseman Gaby Sanchez, second baseman Neil Walker, reliever Vin Mazzaro, outfielder Travis Snider, third baseman Pedro Alvarez, reliever Mark Melancon and first baseman Garrett Jones.

Jones was designated for assignment last week and is not expected to be tendered a contract if the Pirates have not yet traded or released him by Monday's deadline.

With the addition of outfielder Jaff Decker and the emergence of Tony Sanchez, Snider and McKenry also are non-tender candidates.

Alvarez is a first-year, arbitration eligible player. Morton is entering his third and final year of arbitration. Walker is eligible for arbitration for a second time. They are all expected to be tendered contracts.

Furcal confirms interest

After the Tribune-Review initially reported the Pirates' interest in free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal last week, Furcal confirmed the Pirates' interest to ESPN over the weekend. The 36-year-old Furcal missed all of last season after undergoing elbow surgery. He is committed to playing in 2014, according to his agent, and he offers versatility as a switch-hitter who can play shortstop and second base. Eight teams have expressed interested in Furcal in what is a thin market for free-agent shortstops.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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