PITTSBURGH -- Francisco Liriano will start on Friday to kick off a critical weekend series against the Reds, and he could start again in Cincinnati the final day of the regular season on short rest, if the Pirates need the game to sew up a playoff berth.
On regular rotation -- factoring in next Thursday's off-day -- Liriano would be on schedule to start Wednesday's game in Chicago, then the Bucs' first postseason game, which would be either the Wild Card game on Oct. 1 or the first game of the NLDS on Oct. 3.
"The way it lines up, with no changes, he'd be able to pitch a play-in game [in the event of a tie] or the Wild Card game, which is not a bad option to have, if that's where you end up going," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of his 16-game winner.
Of the Bucs' two top-of-the-rotation guys, Liriano is the only one who offers the flexibility of picking up an extra start, if needed. A.J. Burnett will pitch on Saturday against the Reds, locking him in to lead off next weekend's series at Great American Ball Park.
A last-day start for Liriano would come on three days' rest, something he's done only twice in his career, once in 2005 and once last season. He is 1-0 in those two starts, having allowed only three hits in 12 innings, while striking out 15. His finest game of an otherwise down 2012 season came on the short rest, when he held the Twins to one hit in seven innings of a Sept. 15 win.
"It's an option we've talked about," Hurdle said. "We'll see if we need to make an adjustment based on the schedule, wins and losses, opportunity."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com 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.