PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) – Pittsburgh is getting a look at what a healthy Francisco Liriano can do on the mound.
The left-hander pitched three scoreless innings in his second spring training start, helping the Pirates beat a Tampa Bay Rays split-squad 4-3 on Tuesday.
Liriano, who signed a $39 million, three-year contract during the offseason, allowed one hit and struck out four while throwing 21 of 30 pitches for strikes.
“Everything is good physically. I just want to get better each start,” Liriano said. “I was pretty happy with what I did today.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle liked what he saw, too, adding it’s “fun to watch.”
“This is a new spring, a new opportunity for him as well,” Hurdle said. “Even though, it’s familiar surroundings, he’s not ever going to be a guy who’s going to go out there and get his work in. His eyes, that focus, he’s fully engaged any time he gets the ball and gets on the mound. It’s just the way he’s wired.”
Sean Rodriguez drove in two runs for the Pirates with a single and RBI grounder. Liriano singled in his only at-bat, leading off the third inning, and Gustavo Nunez’s run-scoring single broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth.
Burch Smith gave up one run and three hits in three innings in his bid to win a spot of Tampa Bay’s rotation. Nathan Karns, Matt Andriese and Alex Colome, who reported Wednesday after arriving late for camp because of visa problems, are the other contenders for an opening.
“Overall … it was kind of an average outing,” said Smith, who threw 27 of 44 pitches for strikes.
“You go into the season knowing that you can never have enough starting pitchers, ” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I think the intent is to stretch him out, and he’s going to be a factor whether right away or some point during the season.”
Rays star Evan Longoria lost the grip on his bat during the second inning and it sailed in the seats along the third-base line, striking a fan. The fan, whose name was not released, left the stands on a stretcher and was taken to Fawcett Memorial Hospital. He was visited there after the game by Longoria, Cash and Rays vice president of communications Rick Vaughn.
Pirates: In two outings this spring training, Liriano has allowed no runs, three hits, walked one and struck out six in five innings. He went 23-18 with a 3.20 ERA over the last two seasons, helping the Pirates make the playoffs both years.
Rays: Smith is one of five players Tampa Bay acquired in the three-team trade that sent 2013 AL rookie of the year Wil Myers to the Padres and brought Steve Souza, Jr., to the Rays from Washington. The right-hander allowed one run on three hits, walked one and struck two in his second appearance this spring training.
Pirates: RHP Brandon Cumpton had Tommy John surgery on Tuesday to repair his injured right elbow and is out for the season. The operation was performed by Dr. James Andrews. Cumpton experienced discomfort in the elbow last week and went to Andrews for a second opinion. The 26-year-old is 9-9 with a 4.02 ERA in 40 career games, including 28 starts. He was battling for a spot in the back end of the rotation or as a long reliever at the time of the injury.
Rays: LHP Drew Smyly, sidelined by tendinitis in his pitching shoulder, advanced his workload, doing a sock throw drill. “He felt good. I talked to him in the dugout. He was very optimistic with the day,” Cash said.
The Pirates pitching staff has yielded just eight runs over the last six games. The starters have been especially effective, allowing one run in 15 innings.
Tampa Bay’s John Jaso, acquired from Oakland to be the club’s primary designated hitter and provide depth at catcher, started in left field. He believes it was the first time since he was a freshman or sophomore in high school that he played in the outfield. He’s only played two regular-season games in the field anywhere other than catcher, both times at first base.
Pirates: Charlie Morton will on the road in Clearwater against left-hander Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Rays: No. 4 starter Jake Odorizzi makes his second spring start against Minnesota in Fort Myers. Twins lefty Tommy Milone will face the Rays for the second time in less than a week.
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