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Pirates' Liriano shoots for early-May debut

The SportsXchange

It took nearly six weeks for the Pittsburgh Pirates to come to terms with free agent Francisco Liriano on a contract. Now they will have to wait a little longer before seeing the left-hander pitch, as he continues to recover from a broken right arm.

Liriano won't be ready to throw off a mound until at least mid-March, which means he will begin the season on the disabled list. The tentative target date for Liriano to join the Pirates' rotation is early May.

Once Liriano is healthy, he will be added to a rotation that includes right-handers A.J. Burnett, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and lefty Wandy Rodriguez. One of three pitchers is likely to begin the season as the fifth starter: rookie right-hander Kyle McPherson or lefties Jeff Locke and Jonathan Sanchez.

"It's frustrating, but I'm just happy to have a job after everything that happened at Christmas," Liriano said. "I was worried I might not have a job this season."

Liriano suffered the injury on Christmas, the day before he was set to fly to Pittsburgh to undergo a physical examination, which figured to be a formality before he signed a two-year, $12.75 million contract. However, Liriano said he broke his arm when he playfully smacked a door in his house to startle his children, who were playing with their Christmas gifts.

The Pirates pulled their offer after Liriano was injured but continued to maintain contact with his agent, Greg Genske, until the sides came to an agreement on a one-year contract that guarantees the 29-year-old just $1 million this season but could turn into a two-year, $13.75 million contract if he meets all his performance bonuses.

If he pitches at least 200 innings each season, Liriano will make $5.25 million this year and $8.5 million in 2014. He could make $3.75 million in bonuses this year, depending upon how many days he spends on the active roster -- not including days on the disabled list because of his pre-existing broken arm.

Liriano went 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA in 34 games, including 28 starts, with the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox last season. However, Liriano did throw a no-hitter for the Twins in 2011, and he is hopeful of getting his career turned around with a switch to the National League.

"I have been in the American League Central my whole career, and I knew all the hitters and all the hitters knew me," Liriano said. "I think it was time for a change. I needed something different. I know I'm a better pitcher than the way I pitched last year, and I'm thankful the Pirates are giving me a chance to show that."
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