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Pirates notebook: Injury forces Liriano from start

| Thursday, March 20, 2014, 10:00 p.m.
Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano throws was injured during Thursday's spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Something about Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano didn't look right to catcher Russell Martin.

When Liriano landed awkwardly after throwing a pitch to Baltimore's Adam Jones in the sixth inning, Martin went out to the mound.

“I didn't know what, but I could tell something was wrong,” Martin said.

The athletic trainer went onto the field, too. That's when Liriano said his groin had felt tight the whole game and maybe he ought to leave.

“I didn't want to keep pitching like that, maybe push it too much and have it get worse,” Liriano said.

Liriano limped back to the clubhouse, having tossed 5 23 scoreless innings. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out four. Liriano still expects to be ready for Opening Day, when he is scheduled to start against the Cubs.

“I think it's going to be OK,” Liriano said. “We'll see how I feel tomorrow.”

Scary injury

No pitcher goes out expecting to be struck by a line drive.

“If you've got those thoughts in your mind, you're probably not going to have a successful day out there,” Pirates reliever Justin Wilson said. “There's enough that goes on in the game that you've got to be aware of. Batters get hit at the plate, pitchers get hit on the mound.”

On Wednesday night, Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was hit in the face by a liner off the bat of Kansas City's Salvador Perez. Chapman had a steel plate surgically implanted due to a fracture above his left eye and is expected to be out at least two months.

“A horrible injury,” Pirates reliever Tony Watson said. “I feel for the guy.”

Wilson has had a few close calls.

“Nothing up high, though. I usually seem to get out of the way,” Wilson said. “If you've been on the mound long enough, you've been hit a few times.”

This winter, MLB approved a padded cap for use during games. However, many pitchers say the cap is too bulky.

“I'd have to actually put it on and try to throw with it before I give an honest opinion of what I think of it,” Wilson said.

The Pirates have inquired with manufacturer IsoBlox about the caps and are willing to test them when they become available. The caps are intended to be a safeguard against concussions but probably wouldn't have done much to protect Chapman, who was hit in the forehead.

Wandy slows it down

When he throws on the side between starts, Wandy Rodriguez will sometimes bring his left arm back very slowly and deliberately before beginning his delivery. He uses a less exaggerated motion in games.

It's a reminder Rodriguez uses to break a bad habit.

“When I bring my arm back fast, I lose a lot of my control,” Rodriguez said. “When I go slowly, I have better location and I think I throw with a little bit more velocity. I throw more aggressively to home plate and attack the zone. I'm able to keep my head still and keep my eyes on where I want to put the ball. I have better concentration.”

Divided loyalties

Reliever Cody Eppley grew up in Harrisburg, a kind of crossroads sports town whose residents have divided loyalties. Eppley always cheered for the Steelers and Penguins, but his favorite baseball team didn't wear black and gold.

“I was a (Philadelphia) Phillies fan,” Eppley said. “With every other sport, I'm a Pittsburgh fan. The Phillies were always on TV. They didn't really show the Pirates' games.”

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

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