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Liriano will return to Pirates in 2014

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 6:57 p.m.
Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano works in the first inning against the Padres on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, at Petco Park in San Diego.
Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano works in the first inning against the Padres on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, at Petco Park in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO — The Pirates have locked up an ace for next season: Francisco Liriano's contract option for 2014 has vested.

Pirates team president Frank Coonelly told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday that Liriano “will be a Pirate” in 2014.

Liriano's option for 2014 vested after he spent 90 days on the active roster this season, according to Coonelly, and not on the disabled list for issues related to his offseason injury to his right arm.

Liriano, a left-hander, has not had any issues related to his offseason injury since joining the Pirates. He was activated in early May and has posted a 14-5 record and 2.53 ERA.

Liriano originally signed a two-year, $12.7 million deal with the Pirates last offseason, but he restructured the deal after injuring his right arm in an offseason accident.

Liriano was guaranteed $1 million this season, with an opportunity to make up to $3.75 million in incentives. Liriano has met his incentive marks for this season, according to Coonelly.

Liriano's option vests at different levels of base compensation for 2014. Coonelly said his base salary will be at least $5 million in 2014 and will likely increase to $6 million, which is the maximum. Liriano then has an opportunity to earn $2 million more in performance incentives.

Still, even at an $8 million maximum next season, it will be a major bargain for the club given the current market rates for free-agent starting pitching.

For example, Edwin Jackson, a similar talent to Liriano who has struggled with inconsistency, signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs last offseason.

Who wants Pie?

Felix Pie had a happy anniversary Wednesday: The Pirates called him up from Triple-A Indianapolis exactly two years after his last major league game.

“It was a big surprise for me last night when I got that call,” Pie said. “I didn't sleep.”

Pie batted leadoff Wednesday. Starling Marte was still unable to start due to a sore right hand, and Jose Tabata was also held out of the lineup due to left knee tendinitis. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Tabata was available off the bench and that the tendinitis surfaced Tuesday night.

“(Pie) played so well for us in the spring, but it really took a long time for him to get any traction going,” Hurdle said. “The last month, the swing has started to play better. With Marte dinged up, Tabata on the training table … we need to cover ourselves in the outfield. We are a little thin.”

Pie was an interesting choice to lead off, given his .251 batting average and .325 on-base percentage in Triple-A. Hurdle said he liked Pie's speed — 38 steals with Indianapolis — at the top of the lineup. Hurdle said Marte was scheduled to take swings Wednesday.

Second-best PNC attendance?

Coonelly said on the Pirates' radio pregame show that the club projects an attendance of 2.2 million for the season, with a chance to hit 2.3 million. The club is projecting its second-highest attendance mark in PNC Park history. Coonelly said the goal for 2014 is 2.5 million.

The PNC Park record for season attendance is 2.435 million, set in 2001 during the park's inaugural season. The Pirates have drawn 2 million twice in the park's history.

Grilli scheduled for bullpen

Jason Grilli's throwing session went well Tuesday. He will throw a bullpen session — his first since his elbow injury — Thursday or Friday in San Francisco. Grilli said he has had no setbacks during his rehab process and feels strong.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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