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Pirates notebook: Decision on Opening Day starter not far off

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Yao-Hsun Yang throws in the bullpen Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

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Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, 4:54 p.m.

A.J. Burnett is gone. Gerrit Cole owns only a handful of starts in the majors. Does that make Francisco Liriano the Opening Day starter?

“We're going to let the pitcher know first,” manager Clint Hurdle said with a chuckle. “Our decision will be forthcoming. It won't be too far into the future.”

It could be argued Liriano deserves the honor after going 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA in 26 starts last season and subduing the Cincinnati Reds in the wild-card playoff game. He was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year.

• Taiwanese left-hander Yao-Hsun Yang threw his first bullpen Friday, one day after he signed a minor league contract with a spring training invite. Yang, 31, worked with fellow nonroster pitchers Jay Jackson, Cody Eppley and Adam Wilk. Eppley, a righty, is a sidearm thrower.

• Chipola Junior College last week retired Russell Martin's No. 12 during a ceremony on the school's campus in Mariana, Fla. “It was a weird feeling because I'm still playing,” Martin said. “Normally that's something that happens after you've finished playing. It definitely was special. I remember that part of my life and how it kind of structured my mentality. We worked so hard. It allowed me to have the attitude I have now, as far as being hard-nosed.” Martin played third base and right field for Chipola in 2000. One of Martin's teammates that season was ex-Pirate Jose Bautista.

— Rob Biertempfel

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