Francisco Liriano (oblique) cleared to return to the Pirates’ starting rotation this weekend


Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano was dominant in his rehab debut Monday at Triple-A Indianapolis, striking out eight batters and surrendering only three hits over six scoreless innings against the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate from Lehigh Valley. He was so good, in fact, that his next start will be in the big leagues.

Bucs manager Clint Hurdle told Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Liriano has been cleared to return to the club’s starting rotation this weekend against the Reds. The exact date of his return outing has not been revealed, but Saturday seems like the best bet.

Liriano has been on the disabled list since June 11 with a strained oblique. He was off to a disappointing start before the injury — with a 4.60 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 72 1/3 innings — but the 30-year-old southpaw is certainly capable of a big second half. Liriano had a 3.02 ERA and 122 WHIP in 161 frames last season.

The Pirates open play Tuesday with a 4 1/2 game deficit in the National League Central standings.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

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No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.