Liz looks 'improved, refined' to Hurdle in relief
Righty throws two no-hit innings for Pirates during return to Majors
MILWAUKEE -- It was a long time, and a lot of hard work, between scoreless outings for Radhames Liz.
There are not many good things about a pasting such as the one absorbed Tuesday night by the Pirates, 7-4 at the Brewers' hands. But a definite positive in this one was the immediate opportunity it gave Liz to showcase what he has worked on for three months with Triple-A Indianapolis.
A team in a pennant race normally isn't prone to quickly deploy fresh callups. The one-sided game -- three late homers made the final tighter -- freed manager Clint Hurdle to enlist four of the six players added hours earlier. Jaff Decker and Travis Snider pinch-hit, lefty Bobby LaFromboise retired the only man he faced -- and Liz pitched two hitless innings.
"It gave me a chance to show what I got," said Liz.
The Bucs got an extended look at his wares earlier this season. Despite being scored on in six of 11 outings, Liz had enough sharp multi-inning appearances to sport a solid 3.63 ERA when he was lopped off the roster in late May to clear a spot for Charlie Morton, coming off the DL. Liz's last appearance before Tuesday came on May 23, a scoreless inning against the Mets.
A lifelong starter who had given relief a shot because that is where the Bucs needed help, Liz resumed starting for Indianapolis. And he was brilliant at it -- a 1.67 ERA for 10 starts. But with J.A. Happ doing good work and both Vance Worley and rehabbing A.J. Burnett higher on the pecking order, if Liz was to make himself useful it would again have to be in the bullpen.
So a few days ago, Liz was back pitching relief for Indianapolis.
"It wasn't hard," the 31-year-old Dominican righty said, "because I'd already done it, so going back was not hard. Starting is what I did my whole life, so at first it was different. But once they make me a bullpen guy again, I just set my mind on doing that."
With the guidance of Indianapolis pitching coach Stan Kyles and manager Dean Treanor, Liz ironed out his mechanics and dialed up his stuff. He had 74 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings with Indianapolis.
"A better delivery," said Hurdle, offering his first impression of Liz II. "The stuff, the velocity, the breaking balls -- they all worked well. I thought he looked improved, refined.
"There is a little more polish on him, and to go out and put up two shutout innings had to be a good confidence builder for him."
Not a bad sign for the bullpen, either. Although the two runs allowed in the eighth by Joakim Soria took off a little gloss, Pittsburgh relievers have shouldered a big load during the team's second-half surge. With Liz, the rich get richer.