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Liriano injured; Pirates signing on hold

| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 3:52 p.m.
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Francisco Liriano of the Minnesota Twins throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on May 31, 2006, at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Calif. Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates' plan to sign free-agent left-hander Francisco Liriano was put on hold — perhaps permanently — when the pitcher injured his right arm sometime around Christmas.

General manager Neal Huntington on Tuesday confirmed the injury. But, citing medical privacy laws, Huntington declined to say how Liriano got hurt or whether the injury would prevent him from being ready for the start of spring training Feb. 12.

“We continue to have dialogue with Francisco's (agent), but there is nothing to announce at this time,” Huntington said.

On Dec. 21, the Pirates and Liriano agreed to the framework of a two-year, $12.75 million contract. The deal was pending the completion of a physical exam by Liriano, who lives in the Dominican Republic in the offseason.

Liriano, 29, pitched last year for the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox and went a combined 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA and a 1.468 WHIP. He has a fastball that touches 95 mph but also has put up a plus-5.00 ERA and averaged five walks per nine innings each of the past two seasons.

The Pirates wanted Liriano to fill the No. 3 spot in their starting rotation behind veterans A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez. Righty James McDonald, who was erratic last year, would have gone into the No. 4 slot, with one of two rookies — Kyle McPherson or Jeff Locke — in the final spot. Chris Leroux could be an option because the Pirates plan to convert him from a reliever to a starter during spring training.

Right-hander Charlie Morton is recovering from Tommy John surgery and isn't expected back until midseason at the earliest. Management would prefer to have top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Kyle Lohse, Shaun Marcum and Joe Saunders are the top free agents still available. The Pirates could try to re-sign Jeff Karstens, whom they non-tendered in November. Huntington also did not rule out standing pat with his current mix of pitchers.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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