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Pirates GM says Francisco Liriano, Melky Cabrera ‘have a legitimate opportunity to make our club’ | TribLIVE.com
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Pirates GM says Francisco Liriano, Melky Cabrera ‘have a legitimate opportunity to make our club’

Kevin Gorman
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington is optimistic that pitcher Francisco Liriano and outfielder Melky Cabrera can provide depth and leadership for the club.

BRADENTON, Fla. – Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington insisted that pitcher Francisco Liriano and outfielder Melky Cabrera are both “still quality major-league players.”

“They both have a legitimate opportunity to make our club and help our club be better,” Huntington said Wednesday, the first day of practice for pitchers and catchers at Pirate City.

The Pirates signed the veterans to minor-league contracts with non-roster invites to spring training, with the intention of providing depth in the bullpen and outfield and veteran leadership in the clubhouse.

Both players address needs for the Pirates, with Liriano a left-handed pitcher who has worked as a starter and reliever and Cabrera a switch-hitting outfielder. Both have won a World Series championship, Liriano with the 2017 Houston Astros and Cabrera with the ‘09 New York Yankees and ‘12 San Francisco Giants.

“To have a guy like Francisco Liriano that’s been really successful – and if he can get back to the old Francisco Liriano then he can force his way into the rotation, but the intent bringing him in was a left-hander with some versatility out of the ‘pen with some veteran presence,” Huntington said of Liriano, who was 41-36, with a 3.67 ERA and won the 2013 wild-card game for the Pirates from 2013-16. “Part of the Melky Cabrera intrigue is the veteran presence in the guy that’s been there and done that and been to some places our guys want to get to.”

Huntington didn’t rule out the possibility that the Pirates could sign more free agents, noting that shortstop is a position talked about externally, there is a need for a utility infielder and backup first baseman while adding the club is always looking for pitching.

“I’ll give you the answer we’re always talking about,” Huntington said. “We’re always looking to get better, and if we can get better in a way that makes sense for us then we’ll explore that. … If something makes sense, we’ll go in that direction. If not, we’ll go with this group.”

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Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at [email protected] or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.