Looking for a lefty


DALLAS — Unless the Pirates pull in a pitcher from outside their organization, they’ll open the season with five right-handers in their starting rotation. That’s why they’ll meet this week with the agent for veteran lefty Jeff Francis.

The Pirates tried to get Francis last winter, but he signed a $2 million deal with the Royals and went 6-16 with a 4.82 ERA and 1.437 WHIP. Francis’ best season was 2007, when he won 17 games for the Rockies and finished ninth in Cy Young voting. Francis, 30, is a workhorse, having made at least 20 outings in each of the past six seasons. His strikeout/nine innings rate, which was 6.9 in 2007 tumbled to 4.5 last season.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington admitted PNC Park favors left-handed pitchers, but insisted he’d be “comfortable” with five righties in his rotation. “We won’t pursue a left-handed starter just to get a left-handed starter. It’s got to be the right guy, right fit, right contract, right opportunity.”

The Twins and Mariners reportedly also will meet with agent Jim Lindell. One selling point for the Pirates is Francis pitched for manager Clint Hurdle when they were with the Rockies.

»»» Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Joel Hanrahan, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, Alex Presley, Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes are among 15 players scheduled to attend PirateFest Dec. 17-18 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Fans who attend are asked to bring an item to donate to Toys For Tots. Single-game tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 17.

»»» The last day to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players is Dec. 12. So it’s interesting to note that tender candidates Jeff Karstens and Chris Resop are slated to be at PirateFest five days later, but non-tender candidates Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Veras and Jason Grilli are not. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t read too much into it — Evan Meek and Garrett Jones are not scheduled for PirateFest, but I still expect them to be tendered contract offers.

»»» McCutchen (@TheCUTCH22) is now on Twitter. Here’s part of a tweet he sent yesterday to @ShaneVictorino: “Just in the burgh with maria gearing up for #piratefest … im (sic) freezing my dreads off.”