At this point, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle doesn't believe that Francisco Liriano's performance in his rehabilitation starts is important. What's important, Hurdle said, is that he continues to pitch.
"I really don't care a whole lot right now," Hurdle said after Liriano allowed four runs on four hits and three walks Saturday night for Class AA Altoona, needing 67 pitches to finish 22/3 innings. "I wasn't overly impressed with six punch-outs in three innings in the Florida State League, nor am I concerned about the outing [Saturday]. He needs to get on the mound and get through the emotions, the anxiety."
Liriano has until May 14, 30 days after he began his minor league rehabilitation assignment, to work his way back, but Hurdle has indicated the team may activate him sooner. Liriano, a left-hander who broke the humerus in his right arm this winter, will make another rehabilitation start Thursday.
Jose Contreras, who had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in the summer, is also on his way back, but because he is a reliever he won't need as much time for his rehabilitation.
"It's a much shorter track than the starter's track because you're not trying to build them to 105 or 90 pitches, at least," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Jose's moving along very well. He's ahead of schedule of Charlie [Morton], who had Tommy John earlier than Jose had it."
Morton, who started Thursday for Class A Bradenton, will pitch again Tuesday. He could return in mid-May not long after Liriano.
Hurdle received reports on Liriano and Contreras, who pitched again Sunday, from Altoona pitching coach Stan Kyles. Liriano's fastball ranged from 90-94 mph and his slider reached 87. Contreras' fastball hovered between 88-92 mph.
Jeff Karstens, whose sore right shoulder has kept him behind this spring, threw a bullpen session Sunday. Karstens will throw a one-inning, 20-pitch simulated game Friday, after another light bullpen session.
Inge inches closer
Brandon Inge's rehabilitation assignment will conclude on Tuesday. He has hit .158 with two home runs and two doubles in 17 games for Class AAA Indianapolis.
"The goal of Brandon's rehab was to get him a cluster of at-bats," Huntington said. "Spring training was more about getting healthy and getting acclimated."
Inge spent the offseason recovering from a complicated shoulder surgery. An errant pitch fractured his right scapula in spring.
"He's getting close to where we feel like he'll be able to come up here and help us as a bat off the bench," Huntington said.
Cole walking line
In Gerrit Cole's fourth start of the season Sunday for Indianapolis, he pitched four scoreless innings and allowed only one hit but walked five. In 161/3 innings this season, Cole has walked 11 and struck out 14. In each of his past three starts, he has allowed one or no runs.
Caught stealing twice
Ramiro Pena found himself erased twice Sunday at second base.
The Pirates executed two strikeout-caught stealing double plays, both with No. 2 hitter Pena and No. 3 hitter Justin Upton. The first one ended the first inning and the second occurred after Justin Wilson walked Pena to lead off the seventh.
Entering the game, Russell Martin had caught 3 of 11 runners who attempted to steal.
"We didn't have that club in the bag last year," Hurdle said.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published April 22, 2013 4:00 AM