2/11/2013 11:26 A.M. ET
Liriano on comeback trail after unlikely arm injury
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Francisco Liriano, the wayward Pittsburgh lefty, made his way to Pirate City on time, checking in Monday morning for the start of Spring Training with the rest of the club's pitchers and catchers.
However, it will be at least a month before Liriano steps atop a mound, raising uncertainty about his availability for the start of the season.
Liriano also clarified how he had suffered the broken right arm that delayed his signing and could delay his season, contradicting previous reports he had a bathroom fall. The real circumstances were even more innocuous: He banged on a door in his house on Christmas Day to startle his kids as they played in a room with their new toys.
The left-hander was set to board a flight the next day from the Dominican Republic to Pittsburgh to sign the two-year, $12.75 million contract to which Liriano had agreed five days earlier. Instead, he had to place an important call to Bucs GM Neal Huntington.
"At first, he thought I was joking," Liriano recalled, smiling wryly. "But it was scary. And crazy. I was ready to pitch winter ball, and I was all set to pack that night for the trip to Pittsburgh to sign the contract.
"I hit the door to scare the kids," continued Liriano, "I didn't think anything of it at first. Twenty minutes later, I'm playing with my kids and it doesn't feel right, so I told my wife, 'I think I need to go to the hospital.' I was surprised when they told me it was broken."
He'd fractured the humerus bone in the upper arm. The cast is already off -- Liriano strapped only a light brace on the arm prior to taking the field Monday. And he reported having already played light toss a couple of times. However, serious throwing off a mound will have to wait until mid-March.
If Liriano turns out not to miss any time, he might have to thank the World Baseball Classic for buying him extra time by extending Spring Training.
Although much of the $12.75 million guarantee of the original deal is gone, Liriano is satisfied with, and somewhat relieved by, how things panned out. He conceded that "at one point, I was thinking they wouldn't want to sign me at all."
The eventual accord includes a guaranteed salary of $1 million for 2013, with the balance of the original terms dependent upon disabled-list time due to the right-arm fracture. So the less time Liriano misses, the more he earns. And he's fine with that.
"I feel OK. Pretty good. Taking it one day at a time," Liriano said. "It was a very frustrating thing to happen, but my family just told me to take it easy, that things happen for a reason. They tell me it'll be four more weeks before I'm a hundred percent. And I've got to wear this brace for two more weeks."
In explaining why he chose to sign as a free agent with the Pirates, Liriano surprisingly excluded a start in PNC Park that may have been his best of 2012: In an Interleague game on June 20, he blanked the Bucs on three hits through six innings and wound up allowing just one run in 6 2/3 innings.
But he didn't even remember that game, making it one of two things he forgot, the other being his apparent inability to hit.
"I wanted to finally come to the National League," said Liriano, who was originally signed by the Giants in 2000 but never pitched for them. "And I like to hit."
In 17 big league at-bats, he has two hits for a lifetime average of .118.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.