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Pirates

Biertempfel: Liriano bobbleheads remain in limbo

| Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, 7:36 p.m.
The Pirates told Rob Biertempfel they have not decided what to do with the Francisco Liriano bobbleheads the team planned to give away in September. The left-hander was dealt to Toronto at the trade deadline.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates told Rob Biertempfel they have not decided what to do with the Francisco Liriano bobbleheads the team planned to give away in September. The left-hander was dealt to Toronto at the trade deadline.

The deal that sent left-hander Francisco Liriano to the Toronto Blue Jays netted the Pirates a minor league pitcher. Turns out, it also got Pirates fans an additional fireworks night.

On Friday, the Pirates announced their Sept. 10 game against the Cincinnati Reds will be a Zambelli fireworks night. That replaces the original promotion, which was a Liriano bobblehead giveaway.

Liriano and two prospects were traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 1 for right-hander Drew Hutchison.

That got me wondering about what the Pirates will do with the 20,000 obsolete bobbleheads. So, I did what any other MLB beat writer in 2016 would do: I emailed the Pirates. And I tossed the question out there on Twitter.

"Nothing decided yet," was the cryptic response I got from the Pirates. Social media, however, did not let me down.

In my Twitter poll, "Ship them to Toronto" edged "Ka-boom!" for first place. The option "Keep them, just in case" was a distant third.

I also got a lot of off-the-grid responses from my Twitter followers. Among the best were:

My favorite suggestion came from @jwl_15:

Actually, that would be a fine thing to do.

A few years ago, the Pirates came up big when I asked for their help organizing a collection of used school uniforms.

Students at East Catholic School (formerly St. Maurice School) in Forest Hills filled several boxes with clothing. The Pirates sent a crew (including the Parrot) to the school to pick up the items, which the team then shipped at its own expense to needy kids in the Dominican Republic.

Rotation reboot

The reboot of the Pirates' starting rotation probably happened too late to save this season. But it could pay off as soon as next year.

Twelve pitchers have started at least one game. Some of them — Liriano, Jon Niese, Jeff Locke, Wilfredo Boscan, Juan Nicasio — never will be seen in that role again, at least not in Pittsburgh.

The purge of Liriano and Locke over the first few days of August set up a rotation that's marked by both promise and intrigue: Gerrit Cole, Chad Kuhl, Ryan Vogelsong, Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova.

The results over that group's first seven outings were impressive. Those pitchers combined for a 2.62 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. They worked 442⁄3 innings, averaging six-plus innings per start, and racked up 36 strikeouts.

"I just want to keep seeing them pitch," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It has a good look to it. Now, it has to go out and pitch. They all have skill sets to be consistent and productive, and to give us more innings out of the rotation than we've gotten in the past."

Cole, Taillon and Kuhl should form a good nucleus for the 2017 rotation. There's a good chance Hutchison and Tyler Glasnow will get some spot starts in September to set them up for next year.

That could be accomplished by skipping Taillon (who was rested earlier this season) once or twice. Neither Vogelsong nor Nova figures to be back next year, so they also could be skipped down the stretch.

"It's exciting," Taillon said. "We built from the ground up here, and you can see the farm system paying off. It's exciting to see guys coming up and making a difference here. We'll see what happens, but you never know what an offseason can bring and what a new year can bring."

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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