The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

February 12, 2013

Pitchers, catchers report for Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. — Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano reported to spring training camp Monday, but it will be at least another month before he throws his first pitch.

Liriano, who throws with his left hand, will spend the next four weeks rehabilitating the broken humerus in his right arm. He likely won’t be ready to make his regular-season debut until early May.

“It’s coming along pretty good,” Liriano said. “I’m going to take it one day at a time and see how it feels over the next couple of weeks.”

Liriano began jogging and throwing soft toss on flat ground two weeks ago. He’ll wear a removable brace on his arm for the next two weeks before moving to the next phase of his recovery.

In December, Liriano and the Pirates agreed to a two-year contract. But on Christmas, the day before he was supposed to fly to Pittsburgh and sign the deal, Liriano broke his arm at his home in the Dominican Republic. Liriano said he was injured when he slapped a door in his house. About 20 minutes later, his upper arm was swollen and painful.

“I was surprised when I got to the hospital and they told me it was broken,” Liriano said. “It didn’t feel like it was broken.”

Liriano then had to call his agent and the Pirates to tell them about the injury.

“At first, they thought I was joking,” Liriano said. “I said, ‘No, I’m serious. Cancel the flight because I don’t think I can fly there tomorrow.’ It was sad and disappointing. There was nothing I could do except stay home, take it easy and wait.”

With his arm in a cast, Liriano was not able to work out. In the meantime, the Pirates revised the contract offer with Liriano and also signed Jeff Karstens and Jonathan Sanchez to compete for jobs in the starting rotation.

“I was worried they were going to tell me, ‘We’re not going to sign you,’ ” Liriano said.

A restructured contract was finalized Friday, though, when Liriano passed a physical here.

The original contract was for two years and $12.75 million. Under the revised terms, he is guaranteed $1 million this year, but has the potential to make $13.75 million plus award bonuses over two seasons. Liriano said he doesn’t mind accepting such a heavily incentive-laden deal and less guaranteed money.

“After that (injury) happened, I was willing to take anything or play for anybody,” he said. “I wanted to get a job.”

Last season, he went a combined 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA for the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox. Liriano believes switching from the American League to the National League could get him back on track.

“I was with the Twins (and White Sox) for seven years. That’s a long time,” Liriano said. “Everybody knew me and I knew most of the hitters. I’m ready for something new.”

Notes: Monday was Pittsburgh’s check-in day for pitchers and catchers. The first official workout will be this morning. More than 40 players, however, took the field on Monday to warm up. ... The Pirates open the Grapefruit League season vs. Tampa Bay on Feb. 23.

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