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.
Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is rumored to be entertaining a three-year, $40+ million offer from the Dodgers, reports Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo corroborated the report, adding that Hill could receive somewhere between $46 and $48 million from his former team.
Hill, 36, pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 3.91 FIP in back-to-back stints with the Athletics and Dodgers in 2016. While a chronic case of blisters on his pitching hand limited the frequency of his starts, he still figures to be one of the most productive and noteworthy starting pitchers on the market this winter.
The Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the left-hander’s services, though Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette said the club has yet to make a play for Hill and ESPN’s Jim Bowden pointed out that the Red Sox are less involved in trade talks than other interested parties.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.