PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Closer candidate Juan Acevedo, starter Rick Reed and utilityman Daryle Ward were among 16 players who were invited Tuesday to spring training by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ward and Acevedo agreed to minor league contracts with the Pirates in December and Reed accepted a deal last weekend.

Left-hander Paul Maholm, the Pirates' first-round draft pick last year, was the only one invited who does not have major league experience.

Acevedo is the front-runner to become the closer. He had 28 saves with the Tigers in 2002 before going 1-5 with six saves for the Yankees and Blue Jays last season.

Also invited to camp were right-handers Hector Almonte, Nelson Figueroa, Chris Fussell, Elio Serrano and Blake Stein; catchers Sandy Martinez and Keith McDonald; infielders Tomas de la Rosa, Donaldo Mendez and Chris Truby; and outfielders Andy Abad and Luke Allen.