Liriano, Morton close to returning to Bucs' rotation

Liriano, Morton close to returning to Bucs' rotation

MILWAUKEE -- Jeanmar Gomez allowed two earned runs in four innings in his first start on Wednesday afternoon, which will dictate whether he gets to make another start. But the Pirates had the luxury of not sweating how Gomez responded to the opportunity -- thanks to two approaching off-days and two approaching pitchers.

Not only are left-hander Francisco Liriano (right-arm fracture) and Charlie Morton (Tommy John surgery) wrapping up Minor League rehabilitation stints -- they are already pencilled into Pirates manager Clint Hurdle's rotation.

Liriano has one rehab start remaining -- on Sunday -- and could make his Pirates debut on May 11, in New York against the Mets.

Morton is tentatively scheduled to make two more rehab starts and make his Pirates return on May 14, against the Brewers at PNC Park.

"There it is," Hurdle said. "It's laid out. The best guys are going to pitch. And we'll have some very interesting decisions to make here, sooner rather than later."

The as-yet-unknown Gomez and James McDonald are the two weak links in the current five-man rotation. Off-days on Thursday and Monday will enable the Bucs to skip a right-hander of their choosing.

"The off-days do give us a chance to maneuver pitchers around. We've got some options in front of us," Hurdle said.

The reports on Liriano continue to be excellent. His velocity (90-94 mph) and command have been sharp, and he hasn't run into any problems fielding his position or handling the bat. Statistics tend to be shrugged off in such rehab scenarios, but Liriano's two starts with Triple-A Indianapolis are noteworthy for 17 strikeouts without a walk in 11 innings.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.