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Pirates ink lefty Siegrist to Minor League deal

Reliever says he feels good, ready to compete for spot in bullpen
MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Another day in Spring Training, another move for the Pirates.

On Saturday, Pittsburgh signed left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist to a Minor League contract with an invite to big league camp. Siegrist, 28, will compete for a spot in the Bucs' Opening Day bullpen.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Another day in Spring Training, another move for the Pirates.

On Saturday, Pittsburgh signed left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist to a Minor League contract with an invite to big league camp. Siegrist, 28, will compete for a spot in the Bucs' Opening Day bullpen.

"I just think it's a good opportunity to make a team out of camp. I think I bring some experience that I can bring to the bullpen," Siegrist said Saturday morning. "I've been in pretty much almost every situation you can ask for. I look to bring that here as well, fill in some spots."

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It has been a busy week of roster moves for the Pirates. On Tuesday, they acquired outfielder Bryce Brentz from the Red Sox. On Wednesday, they signed outfielder Michael Saunders to a Minor League deal, then released him on Friday. On Thursday, they acquired Corey Dickerson from the Rays in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, infield prospect Tristan Gray and $1 million.

And on Saturday they added Siegrist, who has spent most of his career in the National League Central. He pitched for the Cardinals from 2013 until he was designated for assignment last August, and the Phillies claimed him off waivers in September.

Siegrist made an outstanding debut in 2013, posting a 0.45 ERA in 45 appearances, and served as a durable, effective reliever for the Cardinals from 2015-16. He posted a 2.44 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 3.8 Wins Above Replacement in 136 1/3 innings over 148 appearances in those two seasons. But he struggled last season, recording a 4.81 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP in 39 1/3 innings over 46 appearances.

Video: COL@STL: Siegrist induces 6-4-3 DP to end top of 7th

Siegrist's average fastball velocity dipped from 94.7 mph in 2015 to 94 mph in '16 to 92.1 mph last year. He still struck out 25 percent of the batters he faced, but his walk rate climbed to 12.8 percent last season. His batting average on balls in play also spiked to .337, up from .221 the year before, and his strand rate declined from 89.1 percent to 74.6 percent.

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What changed? Siegrist pointed to the injuries he sustained last season. He missed time in late June/early July with a cervical spine sprain, a disk issue, and sat out most of August due to left forearm tendinitis.

"As long as I can stay healthy, I know what I can do in the league," Siegrist said. "That's all it comes down to for me."

Siegrist said he enjoyed a healthy, productive offseason. He spent the first month recovering from the season, then jumped into strength training and endurance work. He started throwing earlier than the previous year, returning to the program that brought him success in the past. He threw a bullpen session in front of pitching coach Ray Searage on Saturday, and the Pirates are working on a plan to get him into game action.

"Everything feels really good," Siegrist said. "I had a really good offseason, and I plan to carry it over into spring here. Ready to get going."

As one of five left-handed pitchers in camp, Siegrist will have a chance to crack the Opening Day roster. (The others are closer Felipe Rivero, Steven Brault, Jack Leathersich and Josh Smoker.) With a handful of bullpen spots available, the Bucs seemingly have room for someone with Siegrist's track record.

"His health has been a challenge lately. We've seen this guy, when he's healthy, pitch extremely well and pitch in a number of different situations," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's a live fastball, and there's other weapons to go along with it. He feels good."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Kevin Siegrist