Going into the 2013 MLB regular season, the Pittsburgh Pirates really weren’t sure what to expect from starting pitcher Francisco Liriano. Pittsburgh took a flier on Liriano after he looked semi-productive with the Chicago White Sox toward the end of 2012. Moreover, the Pirates were rewarded for their risk as Liriano finished 2013 with a 3.02 ERA in 161.0 innings — both of which were nearly career highs for the now 30-year-old.
However, anyone who is banking on Liriano to have a similar season is downright foolish. In eight years at the big-league level, Liriano has not once poured in consecutive years with an ERA below 4.00. In fact, the Pirates’ starter posted an ERA above 5.00 for two straight seasons prior to signing with Pittsburgh.
Also, Liriano no longer has the option of hiding behind A.J. Burnett as the Pirates’ number-one starter. Instead, on Tuesday Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle decided to name Liriano the team’s opening day starter for 2014. With that kind of honor comes a lot of responsibility. Now, Liriano will be pinned up against aces like Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg and Adam Wainwright more often than not.
So as the journeyman starting pitcher embarks on his ninth MLB season, keep in mind the added pressure that the inconsistent Liriano will be forced to deal with in 2014.