The Pirates announced that Francisco Liriano has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique strain. Stolmy Pimentel has been recalled and reinstated from the disabled list.
Liriano was removed from Tuesday's game in the third inning after throwing the first pitch of the inning to Anthony Rizzo.
This is obviously bad news for the Pirates. According to a study done by Stan Conte, between 2002-2007 pitchers who suffered oblique strains took an average of 44 days to return. Jason Grilli missed 32 days earlier this season with a similar injury.
Liriano has not had a very good first three months of the season, with his ERA sitting at an inflated 4.60. However, things look slightly better when you look at his ERA / FIP / xFIP slash line, 4.60 / 3.96 / 3.48. The biggest reason for uptick in runs allowed is an almost doubling of his home runs per fly ball rate (HR/FB) from 2013, 8.3 to 15.1 percent. Also, his BB% is up 1.7 percent, 9.5 to 11.2 percent.
Even though Liriano has had his struggles this season, he is still one of the top three pitchers on the staff and certainly a better long term option than anybody that will take his place in the rotation.
The Pirates are now approaching something of a crossroads. Going forward without Gerrit Cole for the next week and a half, and without Liriano for a month-plus, places the Bucs in a tenuous situation as they try to return to .500, and get back into contention. If things don't go well over the next few weeks, the Bucs will have to choose a direction.
They could act aggressively and seek to trade for a starter that is rumored to be on the market. Or, they could basically treat the rest of the season as an audition for 2015 and 2016, when this should be a very competitive club. This route would involve conserving resources, acculturating Gregory Polanco to the big leagues, straightening out Starling Marte, figuring out if guys like Jeff Locke, Brandon Cumpton, and Tony Sanchez are ready to be core contributing members next year, and moving guys like Travis Snider/Jose Tabata, Francisco Liriano, Gaby Sanchez and Jason Grilli. Also, I would consider locking up Russell Martin for the next two years (three as an option).
If pressed, I would choose some variation of the latter option at this point.
Martin and Grilli talk Liriano injury
Martin said that the news of Liriano's injury "stinks."
"It's hard to replace [him], but it gives someone else an opportunity, and I'll do the best I can to help whoever replaces him."
Grilli said that is always difficult to lose a teammate to an injury, but that they he is confident they have the pitching depth to fill-in while Cole and Liriano are out.
Asked about the nature of the rehabilitation program involved in recovering from an oblique injury, Grilli said everybody is different and there is not a set timetable for returning to throwing.
"Everybody deals with injury and pain tolerance levels a lot differently," Grilli said. "Definitely frustrated to see one of our guys go down with another injury like that."
No word on who will fill Liriano's spot in the rotation
Clint Hurdle did not indicate who would slot into the rotation to replace Liriano.
"We have TBA who is going to fill-in for Liriano on Sunday," Hurdle said. "We've called up Pimentel to help us in the bullpen tonight, and we'll continue to talk about who will pitch Sunday."
Hurdle went to mention Casey Sadler and Stolmy Pimentel by name as possibilities, and said that they will "revisit" the options they have in Triple-A.
Cole threw long toss from 90 feet this afternoon, followed by some flat ground hard throwing.
"He is anticipating getting on the mound Friday for a bullpen session," Hurdle said.
Polanco looked a little tentative on Anthony Rizzo's drive into the the right field gap in the seventh inning last night. He tracked the ball well, but seemed to be bracing for contact with the wall at the last second, and ultimately failed to make the catch.
Hurdle was asked today if there has been any talk of moving the walls around in the team's minor league parks so that they would replicate PNC Park's dimensions, which would presumably better help Pirates prospects prepare for the angles they will have to deal with once arriving in the majors.
"There hasn't been any talk of moving the fences," Hurdle said. "And there is probably a little unfamiliarity for him on his first night out there. He'll continue to try to get a better feel for the nooks and the crannies. That was one of the challenges with moving him out there."
Hurdle named an All-Star coach for the National League
Clint Hurdle has been selected as coach for the National League team in the upcoming All-Star Game.
"I'm very excited about going," Hurdle said. "It's a humbling opportunity ... I'd like to manage one."
Hurdle added that he will take "full advantage" of the opportunity to lobby for some of his players, including Tony Watson who he said should "absolutely" be considered.