Even with Pelfrey in the wings, Twins still looking for options

  • Updated: December 19, 2012 - 8:16 PM
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Joe Saunders.

Photo: Kathy Willens, Associated Press

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While the wait is on for the Twins to officially announce the signing of righthander Mike Pelfrey to a one-year deal, the Twins continue to look into other starting pitching options.

A source with knowledge of negotiations on Wednesday confirmed that the Twins remain interested in lefthander Joe Saunders. The Twins offered a contract to Saunders in recent weeks.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan would not comment on free agent signings on Wednesday.

Saunders, 31, was 9-13 with a 4.07 ERA last season in stints with Arizona and Baltimore. He was 3-3, 3.63 for the Orioles as he assisted in their playoff push, then posted a 1.59 ERA in two postseason starts.

The Twins better shore up their infield defense, given the way they are assembling their 2013 rotation. Saunders is far from a strikeout artist, and he would be joining a staff already with three ground ball pitchers in Pelfrey, Scott Diamond and Kevin Correia.

Diamond ranked 10th in the majors in ground ball percentage, according to fangraphs.com, while Correia, who was signed last week, ranked 17th. Both averaged just 4.68 strikeouts per nine innings. The Twins have drafted and traded for power pitching prospects, but it won't be evident on the 2013 Twins.

Pelfrey, meanwhile, was in the Twin Cities this week for a physical and had dinner with a friend Tuesday night. Indications are that Pelfrey picked the Twins over the Royals, who were in the running because Pelfrey is from Wichita, Kan., and pitched at Wichita State.

Though Pelfrey had Tommy John surgery on May 1, there were no indications of any problems with his physical exam as of Wednesday.

The Twins and Pelfrey  have a tentative agreement on a one-year, $4 million contract with incentives that could boost his 2013 salary to $5.5 million.

The Twins' interest in Saunders could stem from their desire to take it easy with Pelfrey and let him ease his way into the rotation.

Righthander Edwin Jackson remains on the market, but there are no indications that the Twins have seriously pursued him.

The Cubs and Rangers have been linked to Jackson, who reportedly is seeking a four-year deal. The Padres are believed to have dropped out of the running and could be interested in Saunders.

LA VELLE E. NEAL III

Etc.

• The Los Angeles Angels traded power hitter Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners for lefthander Jason Vargas. Morales became expendable after the Angels agreed to a deal last week with free agent slugger Josh Hamilton. The Angels had been looking for a pitcher after losing Zack Greinke and Dan Haren to free agency and trading Ervin Santana.

• The Yankees and Ichiro Suzuki have finalized a $13 million, two-year contract that keeps the 10-time All-Star in the Bronx. The 39-year-old will make $6.5 million in each of the next two seasons.

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