With the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation in peril, it appears help may be on the way. The help may not arrive in the near future, but Francisco Liriano and Jose Contreras have started their rehab in Bradenton.
In his first rehab appearance, Liriano looked really good. He pitched three innings and struck out six batters. Numbers don’t necessarily matter in these situations, because this is an established MLB pitcher going against Class-A batters.
According to Tim Williams at Pirates Prospects, Liriano’s four-seam fastball was hovering around 93-94 mph. Liriano’s off-speed pitches, a slider and changeup, were both being thrown in the 84-85 range. Williams also noted that Liriano’s start was sharp and that he was able to pound the strike zone. The ability to throw strikes is encouraging. When Liriano struggles, it’s usually because he is having trouble avoiding walks.
In Contreras’s first rehab appearance, Williams writes that the veteran right-handed pitcher was able to use his forkball effectively in his first inning. His forkball was between 91 and 93 mph. When Contreras was ahead in the count, he even mixed in a curveball.
He struggled mightily in his second inning of work but that shouldn’t be all that alarming. When Contreras does get back to the MLB at some point, he will likely be just a one inning pitcher, so I wouldn’t worry much about how he pitches after his first inning during his rehabs.
This definitely isn’t bad news for the Pirates, but it’s not necessarily great news either. The Pirates need help now, and both Liriano and Contreras are weeks away from returning. It is nice to know that help is on the horizon though.