Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Liriano Pain-Free, Eyes Start in Opener

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Liriano Pain-Free, Eyes Start in Opener

Article excerpt

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates are optimistic Francisco Liriano will take the mound Monday for opening day, after he threw a 55- pitch simulated game Wednesday and reported no pain.

Liriano, out less than a week with groin stiffness, said he felt great after the outing and was eager to lead the Pirates into the 2014 season.

"Feels great. Didn't bother me at all. Everything feels normal," Liriano said. "My only concern was throwing from the stretch. It didn't bother me, so [I'm] thinking it's going to be OK. I think I'll be OK for opening day."

The Pirates are being cautious with Liriano, and for good reason.

Liriano is a critical piece of the club's pitching staff and never before had experienced the type of stiffness that forced him to leave a game earlier than planned last week.

Pitching coach Ray Searage said it is too soon to declare Liriano good-to-go until his left-hander shows no signs of a lingering problem. Searage said it is conceivable the club will take every day up until Sunday or Monday to make a final determination.

"It's going to be an ongoing thing. We just want to make sure that he is good to go, then we can keep moving forward," Searage said. "I'm waiting to see how the repercussions of going out of the stretch are. That's where the left leg is more isolated. You don't have that momentum going with you as you do in the windup, so that's the biggest thing."

Liriano pitched three simulated innings at McKechnie Field, throwing his fastball, slider and changeup with a batter in the box.

He fielded grounders, bunts, and twice went through the process of cooling down in the dugout and warming back up.

Liriano, who signed in the offseason last year, started 2013 on the disabled list before his magical resurgence with the Pirates. This former All-Star said being the opening-day starter means a lot to him.

"It's very important to me. …

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