View Full Version : Former All-Star pitcher Liriano has proven to be steal for Pirates

08-04-2013, 09:59 AM
In his last start at PNC Park before Saturday, left-hander Francisco Liriano gave up four hits and one earned run in seven innings to help beat St. Louis. It was the first of four straight wins over the Cardinals that launched the surprising Pirates into first place.

Liriano's 11th victory also furnished another reminder of a rare and exciting talent that dissipated all too quickly — a bright, young star, but just a shooting star, quickly gone.

Now what might be the best comeback story of the year is taking shape.

“He's been to the pinnacle of the game, and he's been to the bottom,” said ESPN analyst Orel Hershiser, a former Cy Young Award winner who pitched 18 seasons in the major leagues and later became a pitching coach with Texas. “He's rebuilding his career and doing it with an organization that's trying to rebuild. They're doing it together.”

Older and wiser, Liriano is summoning the image, if not the spirit, of a 22-year-old rookie for the Minnesota Twins who pitched at PNC Park for the first time in June 2006. He struck out 11 Pirates in seven innings and gave up five hits.

“I tell you what, he was one of the nastiest pitchers I ever faced,” said former Pirate Sean Casey, who grounded out twice and struck out against Liriano in a 4-2 Twins victory. “And that was after nine years in the big leagues. I remember thinking, ‘This is special stuff.' I never saw a lefty throw a slider like that except maybe Randy Johnson.”

A month later, Liriano was back at the park as a last-minute replacement on the American League All-Star team, his work confined to warming up for the 10th inning in case Mariano Rivera blew a 3-2 lead. Predictably, his services were not required.

This was Liriano's golden summer of endless possibilities. People were calling him The Franchise, an audacious compliment considering his youth, inexperience and the presence of another Twins pitcher, Johan Santana, who was older and more accomplished.

But Liriano justified the hype as Minnesota stormed to the top of the AL Central. Then, he hurt his elbow, pitching for the last time July 28, 2006. He finished 12-3with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings, a brilliant season cut short.

Liriano had Tommy John surgery and sat out 2007. Despite occasional success he was not the same afterward. In 2010, he went 14-10 and was named Comeback Player of the Year. He no-hit the White Sox in 2011. But his last five seasons were more accurately defined by the 40-49 record and 4.75 ERA and, not coincidentally, intermittent elbow and shoulder problems. Pitching for the Twins and White Sox in 2012 was a mess.

The Pirates gambled on Liriano during the offseason, hoping for another A.J. Burnett as opposed to an Erik Bedard or Jonathan Sanchez. But if Liriano's career had not completely unraveled, it definitely was frayed. News of his free-agent signing agreement in December produced barely a murmur.

“He looked more like a depth piece, a fourth or fifth starter,” said MLB Network analyst John Hart, a former Indians and Rangers general manager. “There had been enough years gone by and a lack of consistency. It wasn't a high-value (signing) in the eyes of the baseball world.”

Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/-topstories/4462005-74/liriano-pirates-pitching#ixzz2b0qVzWdB

08-04-2013, 10:04 AM
The Pirates need to pick up more "washed-up" former American League pitchers more often. First Burnett, now Liriano.