The Pirates are about to get back a key piece of the equation as they eye the second half of the season. Opening day starting pitcher Francisco Liriano will return to the rotation prior to the All-Star break, manager Clint Hurdle told reporters Tuesday (via Bill Brink).
It hasn't yet been decided which game Liriano will return, but it'll come against the Reds during the weekend. Liriano made a rehab start Monday for Triple-A Indianapolis, in which he threw six shutout innings while striking out eight and allowing only three hits without issuing a walk. Normal rest would put Liriano in line for Saturday's start.
Liriano, 30, is just 1-6 with a 4.60 ERA (77 ERA+), 1.45 WHIP and 77 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings on the season. He's been out since early June with an oblique injury.
The Pirates came into Tuesday 47-42, right in the thick of NL playoff contention. Considering how well Liriano threw for several stretches last season, he could provide a major boost.