Liriano, Morton on the hill a welcome sight for Bucs

Both hurlers toss two scoreless innings in Grapefruit League debuts

Liriano, Morton on the hill a welcome sight for Bucs

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Francisco Liriano was hardly seen in his first two Spring Trainings with the Pirates. Charlie Morton wasn't expected to be seen when this 2015 season gets underway.

So there was the welcome sight Thursday of both veteran pitchers putting up two zeroes each in a 2-1 exhibition loss to the Yankees.

"Working on throwing the fastball in and out, and so far so good," Liriano said after dismissing the Bombers on a pair of hits, fanning two of them. "It feels a little weird, facing hitters back in a real game, but it was good to get the first one out of the way."

"I was a little rusty. But [getting] weak contact, balls on the ground ... I was pleased by that," Morton said after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fourth after a smoother third.

Liriano spent all of '13 Spring Training recovering from a fractured right arm. A year ago, a strained groin muscle limited him to one exhibition appearance between March 8 and the regular season.

You think he is looking forward to an uncomplicated spring?

"Yeah, I'm trying to do the right thing to stay healthy the whole year," Liriano said. "I'm trying to take care of myself. But, no matter what you do, sometimes you're going to get hurt."

Whether or not coincidental, Liriano had suffered his groin injury while pitching in the Pirates' only night home exhibition, on a cold, damp evening at McKechnie Field. So far, this Grapefruit League has been balmy, a good sign for him, if nothing else.

Outlook: Morton, SP, PIT

Then, there is Morton, an ostensible question mark because he underwent labral repair surgery on his right hip Sept. 26.

"Physically, I couldn't have hoped to feel any better than I do now," Morton proclaimed.

Morton was convinced of that not by any of the 39 pitches he made, but by the third-inning grounder slapped to first base by Jacoby Ellsbury. Morton raced over to the bag and was on the receiving end of Andrew Lambo's toss in time to retire the speedy runner.

"Yeah," Morton said in response to whether he was glad for that test of the hip. "And that guy is not slow. There was no pain, which is awesome.

"My goal is to make my next start, get the work done, and be better than today," said Morton, a little frustrated by two walks. "I feel great. Now it's just a matter of nailing my delivery. It's all timing."

Both starters got predictable high grades from Clint Hurdle.

"Liriano showed a good finish to his fastball, and got the ball inside. He also threw some good changeups and sliders," the Pirates manager said. "And Charlie got better the longer he was out there. He's been on track since the start of Spring Training."

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