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Pirates notebook: Liriano will test groin Wednesday

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Left-hander Francisco Liriano will test his sore left groin in either a simulated game or a minor league game at Pirate City this week.

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Starting rotation

Here are the Pirates' tentative starting pitchers for first two series of the regular season:

Date Opp. Starter

March 31 Cubs Francisco Liriano

April 2 Cubs Charlie Morton

April 3 Cubs Wandy Rodriguez

April 4 Cardinals Gerrit Cole

April 5 Cardinals Liriano

April 6 Cardinals Edinson Volquez

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Monday, March 24, 2014, 6:30 p.m.
 

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates' most important game of spring training this year won't even be an actual game.

Left-hander Francisco Liriano will test his sore left groin Wednesday in either a simulated game or a minor league game at Pirate City.

Management wants Liriano to make the outing in a controlled environment. That is why he won't pitch in Wednesday's Grapefruit League game against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Fla.

If all goes well, Liriano likely will remain the Opening Day starter. If not, he could begin the season on the disabled list for the second year in a row.

“I feel good now, but we'll see what happens (Wednesday),” Liriano said Monday.

The outcome of Liriano's test run could impact other areas, too. If Liriano ends up on the DL, the starting rotation would have to be rearranged.

Manager Clint Hurdle said Monday that Liriano is scheduled to start the first and fifth games of the season. Because of the off day April 1, Liriano will pitch in two games before No. 5 starter Edinson Volquez makes his first appearance April 6 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

If Liriano is out of action, Jeff Locke might be able to replace him.

Locke has recovered from an oblique injury and is a candidate to stay in Florida in extended spring training to get stretched out to 100 pitches. The left-hander is scheduled to work three innings (50 pitches maximum) Tuesday in a minor league game.

If Liriano is healthy for Opening Day, there is no room for Locke in the rotation. He has one minor league option left, so Locke could be sent to Triple-A.

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reported Monday the Pirates have talked with Arizona about a possible trade for shortstop Didi Gregorius. After losing Patrick Corbin to a season-ending injury, the Diamondbacks are seeking a major league-ready starting pitcher. Locke could be a fit — if Liriano is healthy.

So a lot hinges on what happens when Liriano takes the mound at Pirate City.

“Wednesday is going to be a day when I think everything might clear up,” Hurdle said.

Marte contact talks

An industry source told the Tribune-Review that the Pirates and outfielder Starling Marte are “still far apart” on terms for a possible contract extension, but there is reason for optimism because the sides will continue to negotiate.

The source confirmed Marte recently turned down an offer for a six-year deal, which would buy out his first two years of free agency, as was first reported Monday by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

Washed away

Monday's game against the Detroit Tigers was rained out. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who was supposed to start, will instead pitch Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Mark Melancon and Justin Wilson also are scheduled to pitch.

Honoring Kiner

In memory of Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, who died in February, the Pirates will wear a No. 4 patch on their uniforms this season.

“We are humbled to honor one of the game's greatest power hitters by wearing Ralph's number on our sleeve,” Pirates president Frank Coonelly said.

The Pirates retired Kiner's number in 1987 and display a sculpture of his hands and bat in the left-field rotunda at PNC Park.

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

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