The Pirates and right-hander Justin Masterson have agreed to a minor league contract, reports MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (on Twitter). The Rowley Sports Management client underwent arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder last September and didn’t sign in the offseason while rehabbing from the injury.
Masterson, who turned 31 last month, tallied just 59 1/3 innings in his return to the Red Sox last season after signing a one-year deal over the winter. That marked Masterson’s second consecutive injury-plagued season resulting in an ERA north of 5.50. Over the past two seasons, Masterson has logged a 5.79 ERA in 188 innings while dealing with knee problems and the aforementioned shoulder troubles.
Prior to those injuries, though, Masterson was an excellent and rather underrated contributor to the Indians’ rotation. From 2011-13, Masterson logged a 3.86 ERA with 7.5 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 and averaged 205 innings per season. Two of those years were particularly excellent, with Masterson turning in a sub-3.50 ERA each season. The hard-throwing side-armer is known for a power sinker which, when at its best, can both induce grounders and lead to quite a few missed bats. Masterson boasts a career ground-ball rate of 56.3 percent, and his ability to keep the ball on the ground undoubtedly held some appeal to the Bucs, who have had a good deal of success in recent years in revitalizing ground-ball pitchers whose stock is at a low point. It’s not clear at this time when Masterson will be ready to get into a big league game, but he’ll give the Buccos some insurance behind Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese, Jeff Locke and Juan Nicasio. Veteran right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, currently in the bullpen, also represents a rotation option for manager Clint Hurdle.