Liriano: "I don’t want to start anymore."

Pirates veteran reliever says he has no interest in serving as the club's opener.

Noah Hiles
May 25, 2019 - 8:46 pm

© Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – With multiple injuries to the starting rotation the Pirates have been in the spotlight throughout major league baseball for becoming just the second National League team (Brewers) to attempt the “bullpenning strategy” for multiple games.

Bullpenning was originally introduced to baseball in the American League by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018. While the strategy helped the Rays win 90 games last season and aided the Oakland Athletics to a playoff birth, things have not been as smooth for the Pirates in the three games they have tried it.

After defeating San Diego 7-2 in a game where rookie Montana DuRapau started and pitched two scoreless innings as the Bucs first ever “opener,” the club went on to lose the following two games where they attempted the innovative method from the mound.

Both DuRapau and Michael Feliz failed to make it out of the first inning in the Bucs last two opener starts, causing some fans to question the strategy as a whole while others suggested that the team was simply not using the best options.

Some believe that the best option on the Pirates active roster is 35 year old Francisco Liriano. In his 14 years in the major leagues, Liriano has made 300 starts including 26 last season with the Detroit Tigers.

Liriano’s history as a starter along with his dominance on the hill so far this season, where he has produced a 0.77 ERA in 22 relief appearances for the Bucs, would seemingly make him a perfect fit for the opener role. However, when asked if giving it was a try would be something he’d consider, the veteran lefty had a very strong answer.

“No, I don’t want to start anymore,” Liriano said. “I just want to be in the bullpen and get myself established in the bullpen. So they haven’t talked to me about it at all.”

“I am trying to find a routine or rhythm that will help me keep myself loose. So I want to stay in the bullpen, I don’t want to start anymore.”

Aside from the opener, another distinctive role in the bullpenning strategy is known as the “bulk man” which is the second pitcher who follows the opener and is tasked with pitching for a majority of the game. Although Liriano was against the idea of him starting games again, he was a bit more open to helping anyway possible out of the bullpen.

“I don’t mind doing anything,” said Liriano. ”Two innings, three innings or one inning, I don’t mind at all; I just don’t want to start.”

With a doubleheader on Monday and starters Trevor Williams and Jameson Taillon still on the injured list, the Pirates still have quite awhile until their entire rotation is back to full health. After seeing two younger players struggle and learning that Liriano is no longer an option, Bucs manager Clint Hurdle will have to be extra creative if he and his staff wish to continue bullpenning further into the season.