Boy, are the Pittsburgh Pirates happy. They’ve got Francisco Liriano and you don’t. That might not have been a big deal up until the last couple of weeks, but it’s looking like it now.
Once upon a time when he was employed by the Minnesota Twins the now-29-year-old Dominican was a budding superstar. Then he was a budding bust, not because of lack of talent, but because his body was constantly being busted up. Too many injuries appeared to be sending Liriano into an unfortunate early retirement.
When it was announced during the off-season that the starting-pitcher hungry Pirates agreed to a contract with Liriano the first reaction in many quarters was, “Really?” He had been out of the limelight so long it seemed as if it was a reach of a hire.
Before Liriano and the Pirates could even ink the deal he got hurt again. He broke his arm. Good thing for Liriano the injury was to his right arm, his non-pitching arm. Still, the incident scuttled the pending contract and he had to sign a different one laden with more incentives and fewer guarantees.
So Liriano missed spring training and missed the start of the season. But then, to much amazement, he emerged healthy and rehabbed, in top condition, and claimed a spot in the Pittsburgh rotation. Not incidently, the slow-starting Pirates, desperately hoping to post a winning season, went on a tear.
Liriano is now officially hot stuff. He is 3-0 with a 1.00 earned run average. This is the type of pitching the world was expecting to see from Liriano on an annual basis when he was a young man. He seemed to be the genuine article and likely to be a fixture in the Twins rotation for years.
In 2006 Liriano recorded a 12-3 record with a 2.16 ERA. He was 22 and his future was brighter than Blake Griffin’s in those commercials where he slips on the shades. Well, the sun hasn’t sunshined on Liriano very much since those halycon days of ’06. He did go 14-10 in 2010, but terrible things began happening to Liriano’s golden left arm and his record–before that and after that.
During his finest year, when Liriano was headed to a possible Cy Young Award triumph, he went on the disabled list with too few innings to qualify as the American League ERA champ. Later, he had Tommy John surgery. Except for a few highlights, Liriano’s luck kind of ran out in August of ’06. But this dazzling fresh beginning for the Pirates could let him rewrite his story.
Sure, three starts, even if they were picturesque to watch, does not a season make, but Liriano has made a statement with his wins and by being so difficult to score upon. The Pirates are 11 games over .500, playing at a 61.7 percent clip going into the holiday weekend. Liriano has helped.
Liriano’s delayed arrival in the Pirates rotation and loss of about $11 million in the originally agreed-to contract came as the result of breaking his arm by playing with his kids. Now that’s a guy with bad luck. Most fans are probably rooting for the Pirates to post a winning record for the first time in more than 20 years and the addition of a healthy Liriano (who is hoping to stay that way) to the team is shaping up as a big lift.