Pirates' Liriano grateful for opportunity

Rob Biertempfel
| Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, 8:09 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — After he broke his non-pitching arm in a freak accident on Christmas, Francisco Liriano wondered if he had blown his chance for a multimillion-dollar contract with the Pirates.

“I was worried they were going to tell me, ‘We're not going to sign you,' ” Liriano said Monday as he and the other Pirates pitchers and catchers reported to spring training.

Liriano, 29, must rehab his injury for four more weeks before he can be cleared to start throwing off a mound. He likely won't be ready to join the Pirates' starting rotation until at least early May.

The Pirates and Liriano agreed to a two-year deal in mid-December. All that remained was for the left-hander to fly Dec. 26 from his home in the Dominican Republic to Pittsburgh, where he would undergo a physical and sign the contract.

Liriano packed his bag for the trip, then went to play with his children. As he entered the room, Liriano playfully startled his kids by smacking the door with his right hand. About 20 minutes later, Liriano said, his upper arm began to hurt.

“I was surprised when I got to the hospital and they told me it was broken,” Liriano said. “It didn't feel like it was broken.”

Liriano fractured his humerus, so his right arm was placed in a bulky cast. He knew he had to call his agent, Greg Genske, and the Pirates to let them know what had happened.

“At first, they thought I was joking,” Liriano said. “I said, ‘No, I'm serious. Cancel the flight because I don't think I can fly there tomorrow.' It was sad and disappointing. There was nothing I could do except stay home, take it easy and wait.”

For the next month, Liriano was unable to do any kind of training activity. In the meantime, the Pirates and Genske worked on a new contract. As insurance, the team also re-signed right-hander Jeff Karstens and inked lefty Jonathan Sanchez to a minor league deal.

“I told (Genske) to call me when we got an answer, yes or no,” Liriano said.

A restructured contract was finalized Friday when Liriano passed a physical at Pirate City.

The original contract was for two years and $12.75 million. Under the revised terms, he is guaranteed $1 million this year but has the potential to earn up to $13.75 million plus performance bonuses over two seasons.

If he pitches at least 200 innings each season, Liriano will make $5.25 million this year and $8.5 million in 2014. There also are $3.75 million in bonuses this year, depending upon how many days he spends on the active roster — not including days on the disabled list because of his pre-existing broken arm.

Liriano said he doesn't mind accepting such a heavily incentive-laden deal and less guaranteed money.

“After that (injury) happened, I was willing to take anything or play for anybody,” he said. “I wanted to get a job.”

Last season, he went a combined 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA for the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox.

“I feel like I can do better than I did last year,” Liriano said. “They're giving me the opportunity here to do my job and try to do it better.”

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

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