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Pirates notebook: Liriano could make weekend start vs. Reds

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 7:48 p.m.
Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano delivers to the plate during the second inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano delivers to the plate during the second inning against the Cubs Tuesday, June, 10, 2014, at PNC Park.

ST. LOUIS — Left-hander Francisco Liriano is ready to come off the disabled list and likely will start for the Pirates before the All-Star break.

Liriano, who's been out since June 11 because of a strained left oblique, tossed six scoreless innings Monday with Triple-A Indianapolis. Tuesday, he got the go-ahead to return during a meeting with manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage.

“He got sharper (Monday) as the game went on,” Hurdle said. “He threw all his pitches. The fastball velocity was good, 91-95 mph. The changeup and breaking ball played.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Hurdle hadn't yet mapped out when Liriano will next pitch. To ensure him enough rest, it would have to be either Saturday or Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds.

The Pirates will make a series of pitching-related roster moves in the next few days. Gerrit Cole will go on the DL and Brandon Cumpton is expected to come up from Indy to pitch Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates also will have to make a corresponding move when Liriano is activated.

Injury frustrates Cole

Cole used the word “frustrating” four times in a span of about 90 seconds late Monday night as he talked about going on the DL with a sore right lat.

Cole is on the 15-day DL for the second time since June 4. It's an exasperating situation for the right-hander, who has rarely missed a start throughout his career, going back to high school.

“And now I can't seem to make one,” Cole said with a droll laugh. “Hopefully, this is the last hurdle I'll have (to) get over, and I can help us down the stretch in the second half. That's the goal.”

Cole had been scheduled to start Wednesday against the Cardinals but was scratched after his back muscle acted up during a bullpen session Monday afternoon.

“I had my heart set on this series,” Cole said. “I don't think you can ask for anything more, a four-game set in St. Louis after taking sole possession of second place. I was looking forward to pitching. But (Pirates management) was really convincing that we need to look at the bigger picture. I was kind of out of options.”

On Tuesday, Cole played some light catch on flat ground. Hurdle and Cole will huddle Wednesday to sketch out a return-to-pitch program.

“I'm not anticipating any shutdown,” Hurdle said. “There will be, down the road, a rehab start involved. We're not going to set a date (yet). We want to keep him in a position so, when he comes back, he can thrive, not survive. We want him to be able to go out and be the Gerrit Cole we've seen in the past.”

Cole did not make a rehab start during his previous stint on the DL.

Because Cole is in just his second season in the majors and hadn't been sidelined by an injury until now, Hurdle will keep tabs on how Cole handles this mentally.

“I can honor frustration. I want him to feel emotions he needs to feel,” Hurdle said. “But we're not dealing with some things other pitchers deal with. This isn't a Tommy John (surgery) or all those other things. This can be like when your car's ‘check engine' light comes on. You need to pay a little bit more attention to something. It's part of the learning experience.

“I told him we've got to get to the point where we turn our back on frustration. Our attitude is going to be huge working forward. So feel what you need to feel for as long as you need to feel it — but then there's a day when we need to get rid of that and go get ready for what's next.”

Hit, but no base

Russell Martin was hit by a pitch on the elbow in the first inning Monday. However, umpire Alan Porter ruled Martin did not try to move out of the way, so Martin was not awarded first base.

“That's the first one I've encountered,” Hurdle said. “It looked funny. My argument was, he's got two strikes, it's an extended at-bat, he's protecting the plate and a lot of things can happen when you put your foot down.”

Porter was within his rights to keep Martin at the plate, and the call was not reviewable. The 10-pitch at-bat ended when Martin flew out to left field.

Tuesday, Hurdle indicated the ump made the correct — albeit rarely used — call.

“I got some reports back that it might not have been as flagrant a call as it seemed from my eyes,” Hurdle said. “There might have been some substance to it.”

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

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