Francisco Liriano will make first start of the season today for the Pirates.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NEW YORK -- Four and a half months after an injury that nearly derailed pitcher Francisco Liriano's Pirates tenure before it began, he finally will take the mound.
Liriano is expected to start today against the New York Mets at Citi Field after five rehabilitation starts in the minors. He needed the rehabilitation starts because a broken right humerus suffered Christmas Day -- when, he said, he slammed his hand into a door to scare his children -- prevented him from participating fully in spring training.
"I'm a little bit nervous," Liriano said, "but other than that I'm ready to go."
The Pirates have not moved Liriano, on the 15-day disabled list, to the active roster, but they must do that before he can pitch again in the majors. And, when they do, it will end, in all likelihood, the time Liriano spends on the disabled list because of his right arm injury in 2013.
That period of time affects how much of the $3.75 million he can earn in incentives this season and the level at which his 2014 option vests.
Liriano's contract allows him to make $5 million, $6 million or $8 million next season depending on how much time he spends on the disabled list in 2013 due to the broken arm. He has a $1 million base salary this year.
When the Pirates initially had interest in Liriano, their analysis likened him to A.J. Burnett, manager Clint Hurdle said.
"He's an experienced guy that's had multiple levels of success at the major leagues," Hurdle said. "Pitched in the American League, so the conversion to the National League is a big plus. We like left-handed pitchers in our ballpark."
Liriano spent parts of seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins. Hurdle and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire are friends and discussed Liriano before the acquisition.
"He gave me the things that he felt were definitely his strengths," Hurdle said. "He gave me the areas that might complicate things when he wasn't as successful. We had a very open, candid conversation.
"I shared on [Kevin] Correia, he shared on Liriano."
Liriano is healthy, but that doesn't guarantee success. He has walked five batters per nine innings in each of the past two seasons and his ERA has exceeded 5.00 in that span.
Liriano said he was glad the recovery process was over and he could finally help his team.
"I try to get ready and move forward and forget about it," he said. "What's done is done. Nothing I can do about it. Just move forward. Just try to help the team win some ballgames."
In Liriano's final rehabilitation start Sunday with Class AAA Indianapolis, he threw 98 pitches in five innings and allowed four runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out six.
Walker's rehabilitation slowed
Rain canceled Neil Walker's second scheduled rehabilitation appearance Friday night when Class AA Altoona's game against Richmond was postponed. Walker is on the 15-day DL because of a cut on his right hand.
Walker played six innings at second base Thursday in Altoona and went 1 for 4 with a double. He can return from the disabled list Sunday.
Morton throwing again
Charlie Morton threw a bullpen session Friday at Citi Field.
Morton left his rehabilitation assignment, the final stage of recovery from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in June, because of tightness in his right shoulder. When he is ready to make rehabilitation starts again, he will receive a fresh 30-day assignment.