Francisco Liriano cleared for Opening Day start

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Francisco Liriano’s groin injury put his Opening Day start in jeopardy, but Tom Singer of MLB.com reports that the Pirates left-hander “has been given the green light” to pitch Game 1 against the Cubs.

Liriano began last season on the disabled list with a broken right arm from an offseason accident and didn’t make his Pirates debut until May 11, but from that point forward he was one of the best pitchers in the league with a 3.02 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 161 innings.

This is a huge season for Liriano, because another excellent, healthy year could lead to a big long-term deal as a 30-year-old free agent, whereas this time last offseason he was coming off a disappointing final season with the Twins and had to settle for a modest deal from the Pirates.

Cardinals shut down Carlos Martínez for two weeks due to shoulder issue

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosh reports that the Cardinals are shutting down pitcher Carlos Martínez from throwing for two weeks because his shoulder strength isn’t where it should have been at this point. Langosch added that an MRI showed no structural damage in Martínez’s right shoulder.

Interestingly, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak didn’t sound too happy with Martínez offseason training regimen. Per Mark Saxon of The Athletic, Mozeliak said, “Obviously, there’s a history with Carlos’ shoulder and it would be probably in everybody’s best interest if he maintained a constant or perpetual approach to that program.”

Martínez, 27, battled oblique and shoulder injuries last year. He accrued just 118 2/3 innings, making just 18 starts. He was moved to the bullpen when he returned from the disabled list in August and finished out the season in that role. Still, Martínez managed a 3.11 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 60 walks.

Langosch reported last week that the Cardinals were considering using Martínez in relief again in 2019. The latest news may push the Cardinals to indeed use Martínez out of the bullpen once again. He will be reevaluated in early March, but there is a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day.