Pirates notebook: Liriano looks to complete consecutive quality seasons
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Francisco Liriano has one goal this spring: The Pirates' Opening Day starter is in search of consistency, a quality that has eluded him throughout his career.
Because of injuries and mechanical flaws, Liriano never has put together back-to-back quality seasons. For Liriano, it is imperative he does in 2014 because he's a free agent after the season. For the Pirates, it is important because the lefty is being counted upon to lead the staff as a top-of-the-rotation, bat-missing force.
Liriano's quest for consistency begins with the reliability of one pitch: the fastball.
“Get a better feeling with my fastball, that is what I'm working on right now,” Liriano said. “Be more consistent with fastball location.”
During a 50-pitch outing, Liriano's fastball sat between 90 and 93 mph and touched 94 mph twice. His fastball averaged 93 mph last season, but a National League scout noted Liriano typically builds his velocity slowly.
Improved fastball command last season helped Liriano to a 16-8 season and 3.02 ERA while striking out more than a batter per inning. Liriano struggled with fastball command early Saturday but settled down to allow one run over three innings in the Pirates' 10-5 win over Tampa Bay. Liriano allowed four hits, walked one and struck out three, including All-Star Evan Longoria. Liriano got a number of swings-and-misses on his changeup and slider.
That never has been a problem for Liriano, but getting ahead in counts to make batters more vulnerable has been.
“My changeup, my slider, I think they're there. I'm not worried about that all,” Liriano said.
Liriano is hoping to lessen his reliance on off-speed pitches. He threw his slider 36.4 percent of the time last season.
“(This season) I want to throw more of my fastball, more of my two-seamer, so I can go deeper into the game,” Liriano said. “Hopefully I can get more ground balls than last year.
“I'm trying to be more consistent and stay healthy, and we'll see what happens. I've been hurt a couple times, and that's been a part of my ups and downs.”
Left on left
A week after having success against a left-handed starter in Mark Buehrle, Pedro Alvarez was back in the cleanup spot against another lefty in Tampa Bay's Matt Moore. Alvarez's approach against lefties has improved this spring after hitting .180 against left-handed pitching.
Alvarez just got under a Moore fastball in the first inning, sending a towering fly ball to right field that Rays right fielder Brandon Guyer dropped for an error. It's just spring training, but Alvarez has struck out only four times in 21 plate appearances.
He said it
Wandy Rodriguez said he felt healthy after throwing two scoreless innings Friday, and the assessment was corroborated by catcher Russell Martin, who said he was pleased with the life on Rodriguez's fastball.
“He got Joe Mauer to roll over the ball, and Joe Mauer has one of the nicest swings in the game and he sees the ball pretty well,” Martin said.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle did not travel with the team Saturday. Hurdle stayed in Bradenton, Fla., to watch Pirate minor leaguers at Pirate City.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.