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Liriano settles into groove in Triple-A rehab start

| Monday, July 7, 2014, 10:45 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS — Francisco Liriano is likely heading back to Pittsburgh soon after a dominating performance in a rehabilitation start with Triple-A Indianapolis.

After shaking off some early rust, Liriano retired the final 15 batters he faced in a 1-0 win over Lehigh Valley. He struck out eight and walked none in six innings, throwing 76 pitches.

Liriano had not pitched since a June 10 start against the Cubs after suffering an oblique injury.

“Everything felt good and it's really good to be back,” Liriano said.

Liriano consistently had his fastball reach 93 mph, and he struck out the final five batters he faced. Including three starts he made with Indianapolis last season, Liriano has struck out 31 and walked just one.

“I thought he was as good or better than he was last year because of the command of his offspeed pitches,” Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer said. “Then when he can command his fastball the way he did tonight, it just makes everything that much tougher to hit because they have to guard against a 92 or 93 and then he can throw the combination of the changeup and slider, those are some lethal pitches there.”

The only three hits Liriano allowed were to consecutive batters over the first and second innings. In the first, Lehigh Valley's Darin Ruf singled sharply to right field and Russ Canzler followed with a double to right-center, but Ruf was thrown out at home trying to score.

Maikel Franco led the second inning off with a double to left-center, but was stranded there after two consecutive groundouts to third base and a strikeout.

“I was working on throwing more fastballs and working with the fastball (early),” Liriano said. “In the second, I started working on other pitches. The changeup and slider were working good.”

Both of the doubles came off fastballs, but those pitches were each 94 mph, Indianapolis catcher Tony Sanchez noted.

“Those first couple of batters the fastball was up, and he was working the kinks out,” Sanchez said. “You usually don't see a guy settle into a game that early, but Frankie did that and that's why he's one of the best.”

Filer attributed the slight early struggles to rust and the adrenaline of being in live action again. Sanchez said Liriano had more movement on his changeup in Monday's start than any point he has seen in the past two seasons.

“I would assume that (was Liriano's last rehab start), but not that I know anything,” Sanchez said. “But after a performance like that he doesn't need to improve anything else. After those first couple of early hits, he retired 15 straight. What else do you have to do?”

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