Liriano's consistency earns lefty Opening Day start

Liriano's consistency earns lefty Opening Day start

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Nobody knew what to expect from left-hander Francisco Liriano when he joined the Pirates last season. He had an injury to his non-throwing arm. He spent some time in the Minors.

Most people expected Liriano to be the Pirates' 2014 Opening Day starter after he went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA and helped the Bucs make the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. Clint Hurdle made it official Tuesday after first making the announcement to the team during the traditional team meeting that takes place before the first full-squad workout of the spring.

"Because of everything we've seen about him since he showed up," the manager explained at Pirate City. "At this time last year, he was rehabbing. He wasn't even in the picture. The game demands, the clubhouse -- he's another guy who models the behavior you want to instill in others. He does it every day. He's a man you can depend on. And I share with these players that the greatest ability you can have day in and day out is your dependability. And we have that in Francisco."

That Liriano, who started on Opening Day 2009 for the Twins, would get the honor for the March 31 game against the Cubs seemed obvious after A.J. Burnett left as a free agent. Liriano departed the clubhouse before the news broke, but told reporters last week that he doesn't consider himself the ace of the staff.

"We have great pitchers, and I am just trying to fit in well with everybody and do my job," he said. "I am looking forward to Opening Day and trying to get ready for the season. My goal is to stay healthy the whole year and try to win 20 at least."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.