Francisco Liriano’s first minor-league rehab start may end up being his last minor-league rehab start, because the Pirates left-hander was dominant last night at Triple-A.
Facing the Phillies’ affiliate–and a lineup that included former big leaguers Grady Sizemore, Darin Ruf, and Russ Canzler–he tossed six shutout innings with eight strikeouts, zero walks, and three hits.
Liriano needed just 76 pitches to record 18 outs and threw 70 percent of them for strikes, retiring the final 15 batters he faced in his first game action since being shut down with an oblique strain on June 10.
It’s possible that the Pirates will ask him to make one more start at Triple-A just to be safe, but Liriano certainly seems ready to rejoin the rotation and there’s an opening now with Gerrit Cole going back on the disabled list.
The Red Sox signed catcher Christian Vazquez to a three-year, $13.55 million extension, per a team announcement on Saturday. The agreement will keep Vazquez under contract through the 2021 season and covers two years of arbitration eligibility and the catcher’s first year of free agency. It comes with a $7 million club option (and $250,000 buyout) for 2022 that could get bumped up to $8 million if he reaches 502 plate appearances in both 2020 and 2021. Vazquez has also volunteered to make an annual donation to the Red Sox Foundation as part of his new arrangement with the club.
The 27-year-old backstop is entering his fourth year with the Red Sox in 2018. He’s been a steady defender behind the dish over the last three years and was ranked fifth-best in defense among all American League catchers at the end of the 2017 season. He also enjoyed a breakout performance at the plate, slashing a career-best .290/.330/.404 with five home runs and a .735 OPS in 345 plate appearances.
Come Opening Day, Vazquez is expected to be the Red Sox’ primary option behind the plate, with veteran Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart poised to start in backup roles. Swihart is out of options, but has been groomed for a utility role this spring and could take a few reps in the left field and the infield corners if need be, as it doesn’t appear the club is prepared to trade him just yet.