A decision is looming for a left-handed pitcher and his future with the Pittsburgh Pirates
On February 4th, the Pittsburgh Pirates reunited with an old friend. It was on this day that the team signed former staff ace Francisco Liriano to a minor league contract. This minor league deal included an invite to Major League Spring Training.
When this deal was inked most expected Liriano to make the team’s Opening Day roster. While this belief still holds true, the veteran lefty will soon have a decision to make. This is due to Liriano having the ability to opt out of his contract, re-electing free agency on Wednesday.
All the advantages Liriano had when he signed with the Pirates in February remain true today. On top of the fact he has a strong history working with pitching coach Ray Searage, the Pirates currently have just two left-handed pitchers on their 25-man roster. These pitchers are closer Felipe Vazquez, and swing man Steven Brault who will likely start the season at Triple-A.
With Clint Hurdle wanting another lefty in his bullpen, Liriano’s odds of cracking the Opening Day roster are high. His odds are helped by the struggles of both Brault and fellow minor league free agent addition Tyler Lyons this spring.
Brault has been competing for the final spot in the Pirate rotation, but it does not appear he will win this spot. Due to this, odds are, he will start the season in the minor leagues. As for Lyons, he owns a 13.50 ERA this spring and has allowed 12 base runners in just 6 innings pitched.
This brings us back to Liriano. The overall numbers this spring are a bit ugly for the 35-year-old Dominican. However, when you dive a bit deeper you see they are not as bad as they appear.
In 7 innings pitched this spring Liriano owns a 5.14 ERA. He has walked six batters, struck out five, and has allowed four hits. These stats do not tell the entire story, though.
A March 10th outing against the Yankees was a disaster for Liriano. In this outing he faced four batters, walked all four, and three of them came around to score. Outside of this game, Liriano has been great this spring.
In his other six games Liriano has allowed just one run on four hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. These results have come in 7 innings pitched. Assuming the Liriano the Pirates saw in six of his outings and not the one they saw in his lone disastrous outing is an indication of what he has to offer, then he can be a strong addition to the 2019 bullpen.
Liriano also is set for a nice payday if he makes the Opening Day roster. The Pirates will owe Liriano $1.8 million if he makes the Opening Day roster. His contract also includes an additional $1.5 million in incentives.
While a decision looms for Liriano, odds are, he will remain a Pirate. The veteran lefty can opt out of his contract on Wednesday afternoon, but this seems unlikely. All signs still point toward Liriano being a member of the Pirate bullpen when Opening Day rolls around on March 28th.