Pirates notebook: Momentum carried Worley into start No. 2

CHICAGO -- Vance Worley's journey back to the major leagues ended with a deep sigh of relief last week after his debut with the Pirates.

"Afterwards, yes," Worley said. "I was excited to be back out there and give these guys a chance to win. All I can do is roll with it."

Worley pitched seven shutout innings in a no-decision, had strong fastball command and struck out five heading into his second start Saturday night.

He credits his comeback to getting another opportunity with the Pirates and working with Jim Benedict in the minor league system.

Worley was a rookie of the year contender in 2011 with Philadelphia, but needed season-ending elbow surgery in 2012. He was traded to Minnesota that winter and was the Twins' opening-day starter in 2013 before being demoted to the minors. He was outrighted at the end of spring training this year, and selected by the Pirates.

"We saw a lot of the same stuff, mechanically. It was more bouncing back mentally," Worley said. "After I had the surgery in 2012 with Philly I never got back to my throwing habits. I was still throwing hurt after the surgery. I never found my way back to how I used to throw."

That translated to not getting the ball down in the strike zone, and getting hit hard.

"I was going out there and getting [it] handed to me, getting beat over and over again," he said. "I was confident that I had good stuff. I'd pitched in the big leagues before, but I wasn't having any success. It didn't matter what I did, I was getting hit."

Worley said he worked on making a small adjustment each week of extended spring training, then started to feel back to himself when he was sent to Class AAA Indianapolis.

"Once I got the ball down in the zone I got to feel what confidence really is again," he said. "Then I was able to go out and compete and not have to worry, stress."

Leave of absence for Marte

Starling Marte went home to the Dominican Republic to deal with a personal matter. Manager Clint Hurdle said he anticipates Marte rejoining the team Monday in time for a game against Tampa Bay.

Jose Tabata played left field.

"We've got a very capable Plan B that just turned into Plan A," Hurdle said. "I don't think [Tabata] has tapped his potential power-wise and the whole game experience. I think he's still growing."

Injury update

Francisco Liriano said he is improving slowly from his strained left oblique and could throw at full speed by Monday.

"I've been throwing for three days; it's getting better slowly," said Liriano, who has been playing catch incrementally from 80 feet, then 90 feet.

"He's getting stretched out as far as length and distance no side effects and no steps back," Hurdle said.

Liriano said he has conferred with several teammates who have dealt with oblique injuries, including Jeff Locke, Edinson Volquez and Jason Grilli.

"I've just got to take it slowly and not try to push too soon," Liriano said.

Jenn Menendez jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.

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