Pirates notebook: Liriano would open postseason if squad reaches October, Hurdle says

Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano delivers during the first inning against the Cubs on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano delivers during the first inning against the Cubs on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 at PNC Park.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Travis Sawchik
| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 12:27 p.m.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has cautioned that the club's projected rotation after this weekend is written in pencil, but at the moment Francisco Liriano is in line to open the postseason for the Pirates should they advance to October.

Hurdle said the team also has discussed throwing Liriano on short rest in the final series at Cincinnati, if needed. A.J. Burnett projects as the club's No. 2 postseason starter, with Charlie Morton and rookie Gerrit Cole following as the third and fourth options.

Liriano (16-7, 2.92 ERA) has been the team's best starter this season, though he's fallen off some in the second half.

“If there were no changes, Liriano would be able to pitch a play-in game or the first wild card game, which isn't a bad option,” Hurdle said. “We'll release the next rotation when it comes out, but we have every opportunity to stay on line. We'll see if we need to make any adjustment based upon the schedule, based upon wins and losses (or) opportunity.”

Hurdle again indicated there are no workload restrictions on Cole, who entered his Thursday start against the Padres with a 1.35 ERA in three September starts.

If the Pirates skip Jeff Locke's final start and make no other rotation adjustments, Cole is in line to pitch twice more in the regular season, including the final regular season game in Cincinnati. But for now, the only concrete plans are Liriano will pitch Friday's series opener against the Reds and he will be followed by Burnett and Locke.

Pirates pause Wilson

Pirates left-handed reliever Justin Wilson has only made four appearances in September and he has not pitched since Sept. 13 against the Cubs.

Wilson's fastball velocity, which has averaged 95 mph this season, dropped to 92 mph in his last appearance. Hurdle said Wilson is not injured, rather that the club is simply reducing his workload. Wilson entered Thursday with 71 innings pitched in his first year as a relief pitcher.

“We wanted to hit the pause button with him similar as we did with Jeff Locke,” Hurdle said. “He was able to keep throwing off flat ground. He'll be available for Saturday for sure. It's a different year your first year in the bullpen … I made calls to old teammates about their first years in the bullpen, there were interesting stories. He's fine. It was the volume of work.”

McCutchen looks the other way

Last season, 15 of Andrew McCutchen's 31 home runs landed to the right of the center field distance marker in major league ballparks. This season, McCutchen has hit seven home runs to the opposite field, including his two-run shot on Wednesday night. McCutchen has said he believes he's hitting the ball with the same authority the other way this season, but he's not sure why not as many balls have been home runs.

Pepper games

Starling Marte was not in Thursday's lineup because his wife was giving birth to their first child. He was replaced by Jose Tabata in left field. … Starting catcher Russell Martin was given a second straight day off as Tony Sanchez was in the lineup for Cole's start Thursday.

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

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