BRADENTON, Fla. -- Finalizing a process that began early this offseason, Michael Saunders signed a Minor League contract with the Pirates on Wednesday and reported to the Pirate City complex to join Pittsburgh's growing collection of outfield options."At the end of the day, my goal is to find a job
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Finalizing a process that began early this offseason, Michael Saunders signed a Minor League contract with the Pirates on Wednesday and reported to the Pirate City complex to join Pittsburgh's growing collection of outfield options.
"At the end of the day, my goal is to find a job in the big leagues and help the team win," Saunders said. "[General manager] Neal [Huntington] and I have been talking the majority of the offseason, just expressing interest and everything. I felt like it was the right opportunity."
Pirates Spring Training information
Saunders, who will wear No. 12, was an All-Star with the Blue Jays after hitting .298/.372/.551 with 16 home runs in the first half of 2016. But the lefty-hitting corner outfielder slumped in the second half, however, hitting .178/.282/.357 with eight homers, and struggled to a .202/.256/.344 line with the Phillies and Jays last season.
"He feels as healthy and strong as he's felt in a while," Huntington said. "The hunger that we got from him and his hunger to come back and be what he was in 2016 also was a deciding factor."
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Now, the 31-year-old will try to catch on with the Pirates.
"It's another guy that fits our profile," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's a guy that's had success. It's a guy that's worked hard. It's a guy that's had to persevere. This guy's faced some adversity. With an opportunity to come in, he's hungry and wants to get his game back in a better place."
But where does he fit on the roster? That remains unclear, as the Bucs have bolstered their outfield depth the past two days by signing Saunders and trading for Bryce Brentz.
Brentz, 29, also reported to Pirates camp on Wednesday, concluding a whirlwind eight-day stretch that included the birth of his first child (daughter Everlee) and the end of his eight-year tenure in the Red Sox system.
"Pretty big week," Brentz said. "New family member, new team. It's pretty awesome."
Brentz, who's on the 40-man roster and out of options, showed big power last season due to good health and comfort with his mechanics after he ditched a leg kick and implemented a toe tap. He and Saunders are candidates to make the Opening Day roster. So are Daniel Nava, who's in camp on a Minor League deal, and Jordan Luplow, who will otherwise spend more time in Triple-A.
The Pirates have not committed to a starting left fielder, though Adam Frazier figures to get a lot of work there, nor a fourth outfielder. Unlike last year, when Starling Marte's suspension and Gregory Polanco's injuries significantly tested their limited upper-level outfield depth, they'll have plenty of options and, as a result, a healthy competition this spring.
"We put ourselves in a better position from that standpoint of having depth if something happens to anybody," Hurdle said.
Director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk provided the following injury updates:
Right-hander Joe Musgrove's right shoulder discomfort is "minor" and "precautionary," Tomczyk said, and he could resume throwing in the "coming days."
Nava (lower back discomfort) is "rehab-only," Tomczyk said, and did not participate in the last two days' workouts. Huntington said the Pirates hope Nava will return fully and quickly but, regarding the Brentz and Saunders deals, admitted they began to "explore Plan B a little more aggressively when we first got word that Daniel was sore."
Reliever Daniel Hudson (sprained ankle) threw a bullpen session Tuesday and is "back in the mix," Tomczyk said.
Right-hander Nick Burdi, a Rule 5 Draft pick, is in the flat-ground portion of his throwing program as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Non-roster righty Bo Schultz, 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery, is throwing bullpen sessions and preparing to pitch live batting practice.
"Both men are true professionals of rehab in my short time with them. These guys really have owned their rehab," Tomczyk said. "They're diligent, they're hard-working and we envision good things from these guys in regard to their returns."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.