Liriano already looking forward to opener
BRADENTON, Fla. -- When Francisco Liriano scales the PNC Park mound on March 31 to face the Chicago Cubs, it will not be the first Opening Day assignment of his career.
However, it will be the first as his team's Plan A. Liriano pitched the Minnesota Twins' 2009 inaugural when "Scott Baker was supposed to be the Opening Day starter," Liriano recalled, "but he got hurt like 10 days before the season started, so they told me like a week before."
The left-hander got a little more heads up this time, getting the word from manager Clint Hurdle nine days before the Grapefruit League starts. Hurdle made the announcement during the team meeting prior to Tuesday's first full-squad workout.
"No booing, not at all," Liriano said with a grin. "I was kinda shy about it, and it was a little embarrassing. But a good feeling at the same time. Guys congratulated me.
"I'm very happy for the opportunity, and excited. I can't wait. I look forward to it, and try to do the same thing I did last year. Thank God for a second chance. Things work out for a reason, and I'm still here, happy to be here."
Liriano referred to his chaotic 2012-13 offseason, when a more lucrative contract with the Pirates was voided by the household accident in which he fractured his non-pitching arm. He signed a revised deal after extensive renegotiations, then spent all of Spring Training rehabbing and did not make his first start until May 11. He went on to post a 16-8 record, earn the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award and vest his 2014 contract at $8 million.
"I had a tough Spring Training last year after being hurt," Liriano said, "so it's neat to be healthy and to know exactly when I will start. I'm ready to go, and it's a great feeling."