Pirates notebook: More spring rest on tap for Jason Grilli, Wandy Rodriguez

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates will take a different approach to closer Jason Grilli's spring preparation, and that allowed him an extra day of rest Saturday.

"We've actually got a few guys that are going to be, based on the day, potentially a little slower with," manger Clint Hurdle said.

Most pitchers in camp are throwing a bullpen session, which consists of 25 to 30 pitches off a mound to a catcher, followed by a day of rest. Every third bullpen session, the pitchers will generally mix in a "touch-and-feel" session, which is less intense. Grilli threw Thursday, and his group was scheduled to throw Saturday, but he did not.

"Basically, some of the guys that we've got a little more experience with, we communicate with, and just try to play it along and do what's right," Hurdle said. "We're in no hurry to peak him, so we've got time in front of us."

Grilli is 37 and missed time last year due to a flexor strain in his right forearm.

The Pirates are also allowing left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, 35, an extra day of rest between bullpen sessions. Rodriguez injured the flexor tendon in his left forearm last year and missed the final four months of the season despite two attempts at rehabilitation and a platelet-rich plasma injection.

Rodriguez threw his first bullpen session Friday and said he felt no pain.

Liriano: Year 2

Francisco Liriano pitched his way into ace status with the Pirates last year after an injury kept him from starting the season on time. This year, he is an incumbent.

His style differs from A.J. Burnett, who started last season as the ace, but pitching coach Ray Searage said Liriano has earned respect.

"One thing about Frankie, he's a quiet leader," Searage said. "He'll do things in the outfield or on the bench, or he'll lead by his actions on the bump."

Liriano didn't make his first start for the Pirates until May, but he still won 16 games with a 3.02 ERA in 161 innings.

"Twenty-four-seven, he keeps himself in shape during the season," Searage said. "He's running the stairs just like A.J. was. He works his tail off, he knows what he has to do."

Liriano has appeal to all pitchers, Searage said, not just his fellow Latin Americans.

"I enjoy him because he's got a great personality, but, when he goes out there, he's all business," Searage said.

No evaluations yet

Hurdle said these bullpen sessions prepare the pitchers for the start of spring games and are not a part of the body of work the staff will use to evaluate them.

"We're going to give them time," Hurdle said. "Right now, it's just letting them get their feet underneath them. Get their reps in with the [pitchers' fielding practice] and the bunting, get their program in. Get a few bullpens underneath their belts."

Hurdle said the Pirates plan to use younger pitchers in the black and gold intrasquad game Feb. 25, then schedule their pitchers so they get more looks at the non-roster invitees and the other less familiar pitchers.

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