The Francisco Liriano Saga has been a long and strange one without Liriano ever even throwing a pitch for the Pirates. Today, he'll finally make his first start for the Bucs. Even if Liriano hadn't missed the season's first six weeks recovering from a broken humerus in his right (non-throwing) arm suffered under weird circumstances over Christmas, I'd tell you that I didn't know what to expect from Liriano. Liriano is an undoubtedly talented guy, but arm problems and control problems have left him with a pretty spotted career. Certainly, he's as talented as any pitcher on the Pirate staff right now and he's capable of going out and taking over a game by sheer force of talent. Whether he falls closer to Erik Bedard or AJ Burnett on the scale of "talented but frustrating Pirate pitchers" scale, well, we'll see. His rehab stint went well and I think that the coaching staff can work with his skillset, but still, this is a pretty big unknown and a pretty important variable for the 2013 Pirates. Hold your breath, cross your fingers, etc.
Tony Sanchez is also in New York in case Russell Martin has to go on the disabled list with his stiff neck. He's off to a good start in Triple-A this year (.269/.380/.449 in 25 games) and I still feel like he can be a serviceable big league catcher, despite all of his minor league struggles. It's not certain that he'll be activated this weekend, but at least this indicates that the Pirates think that he's ready to play at the big league level, if necessary.
In any case, Liriano takes the mound today against Jon Niese and the Pirates need a win with Matt Harvey looming in the series finale on Sunday. Niese is not off to a particularly great start this year, with a 4.66 ERA and nearly as many walks (19) as strikeouts (20) in his 36 2/3 innings. With Liriano representing such a big question mark on the mound, it'd be nice to ding Niese for some runs. First pitch today is at 1:10.