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Liriano set to return from hamstring injury

Rodriguez faces former team, then optioned to Triple-A Toledo
MLB.com @beckjason

CLEVELAND -- The last time Francisco Liriano pitched in a Tigers uniform was Memorial Day weekend. With the Trade Deadline just over five weeks away, it remains to be seen how many more times Liriano will pitch wearing the Old English "D."

A healthy Liriano on Saturday could further the path toward his potential trade. For now, though, he's simply glad to get back to pitching. He's scheduled for a Saturday night start against the Indians at Progressive Field after missing the last 3 1/2 weeks with a right hamstring strain.

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CLEVELAND -- The last time Francisco Liriano pitched in a Tigers uniform was Memorial Day weekend. With the Trade Deadline just over five weeks away, it remains to be seen how many more times Liriano will pitch wearing the Old English "D."

A healthy Liriano on Saturday could further the path toward his potential trade. For now, though, he's simply glad to get back to pitching. He's scheduled for a Saturday night start against the Indians at Progressive Field after missing the last 3 1/2 weeks with a right hamstring strain.

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"I just can't wait to go out there tomorrow and try to just do my job and try to go deep in the game," he said.

Liriano will probably be on a pitch count, somewhere between 75 and 80 pitches, manager Ron Gardenhire suggested. He threw 83 pitches over four innings in his rehab start for Triple-A Toledo last Sunday, allowing eight runs on 11 hits but striking out seven without any walks. He hit two batters.

The Tigers weren't worried as much about results as they were about health.

"My body feels great," Liriano said. "Everything feels back to normal. Just try to get myself ready for tomorrow and try to do the same routine I was doing before. Thank God, everything feels well."

Liriano has been in a five-day routine the last couple weeks to prepare himself to get back to his normal schedule. It won't be his schedule every time out going forward, because the Tigers will be utilizing a six-man rotation on some turns between now and the All-Star break.

The expanded rotation allows Gardenhire and pitching coach Chris Bosio to give starters some extra rest and watch innings amidst a stretch of 20 games in the next 20 days. But it also gives the Tigers some flexibility in case they lose a starter, either to an injury or a trade.

"I think that would work," Liriano said of the expanded rotation. "It won't bother me at all. I don't know about the other guys. [Blaine] Hardy's been doing a great job, so it's hard to put him in the bullpen the way he's throwing the ball right now. I think it's a great idea."

If the Tigers decide to trade, Liriano certainly would be a candidate. The Tigers acknowledged when they signed the 34-year-old in Spring Training that the potential trade return was a benefit to the move. Considering the Tigers' need for hitting prospects, they'd love to get something similar to Teoscar Hernandez, the former Astros prospect currently roaming the Toronto outfield after the Jays traded Liriano to Houston last year.

McCann eager for Omaha
James McCann was a freshman on the University of Arkansas baseball team when the Razorbacks went to the College World Series in Omaha in 2009. A decade later, he could go back with the Tigers, who will play the Royals in a regular-season game in Omaha prior to the College World Series. Major League Baseball made the announcement on Thursday.

Video: Manfred, Moore and Avila on playing in Omaha

"It's a little ways away," McCann said, "but I think that's awesome for baseball and for guys that have never experienced Omaha, especially Latin guys that didn't go to college, to see the atmosphere. People rent out houses for the week, even if their team's not there. They plan on their team being there, and if they don't make it, they still go and have a good time and tailgate and hang out. You don't see that at big league venues. It's just a different atmosphere."

Part of the atmosphere, he said, comes from what's at stake. Some of McCann's best college memories, he said, came in Omaha.

"Go talk to guys that did have an opportunity to play in Omaha," McCann said, "and I think the consensus is you don't feel that atmosphere, that team desire until you get to the big leagues and you play for the playoffs, for the World Series title. It's just different when you leave college and you go to pro ball, and you're in the Minor Leagues, grinding out long days on bus rides. You look back at Omaha as something like, 'Man, I can't wait to play for a championship like that again.'"

Rodriguez finally gets to Cleveland
After seven years in the Indians farm system, Ronny Rodriguez finally made it to Progressive Field on Friday. He just did so in a different uniform.

For years, Cleveland was the goal for Rodriguez, signed by the Indians as a teenager in 2010 before rising through the Tribe farm system. He reached Triple-A Columbus to begin the 2016 season but spent two seasons with the Clippers without getting a call. The emergence of Jose Ramirez, the return of Michael Martinez and the arrival of Erik Gonzalez left Rodriguez without a spot on the big league roster, eventually leading him to sign with the Tigers last winter as a Minor League free agent.

Video: NYY@DET: Rodriguez barehands ricochet off Fiers

Rodriguez said he knows most of the players in the Indians clubhouse but isn't focused on proving anything.

"Nah, it's the same goal," Rodriguez said. "I just have friends there. I don't have feelings for that. I play for the Tigers, and I'm here."

A bigger thrill for Rodriguez than getting to Cleveland came Thursday, when YouTube's "Batting Stance Guy" showed off his impression of Rodriguez's swing, waving his bat over his head. Rodriguez said he saw it on Twitter and got a kick out of it.

Tweet from @BattingStanceG: Favorite new player in 2018. @Tigers Ronny Rodriguez pic.twitter.com/M4JyKtpeK0

"That's crazy," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez grounded out as a pinch-hitter to end Friday's 10-0 loss. He was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after the game to make room for Liriano's return.

Quick hits
• The Tigers placed right-hander Johnny Barbato on the 10-day DL with right shoulder soreness. He reported dealing with pain in the back of his rotator cuff after giving up five runs in one-third of an inning in Friday's loss. He'll undergo an MRI on Saturday.

"It's been a while," he said, "but it's been on and off, so I kept thinking I could pitch through it. I just can't do it anymore."

Right-hander Artie Lewicki was recalled from Toledo to fill Barbato's spot in the bullpen.

• The Tigers announced they've signed 22nd-round pick Maddux Conger and 27th-round selection Steve Ledesma, bringing their total to 34 signings out of 40 picks in this month's MLB Draft. Conger is a right-hander from Vanderbilt, while Ledesma is a righty from UC-Santa Barbara.

• Former Tigers player Don Kelly, now a Major League scout in the team's front office, was at Progressive Field on Friday to catch up with the team. Kelly became a fan favorite as a superutility player from 2009-14.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Francisco Liriano