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Francisco Liriano to start Pirates opener at Cincinnati

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BRADENTON, Florida — Francisco Liriano is set to start on opening day for Pittsburgh, making him the first Pirates pitcher in quite a while to draw the honor two years in a row.

Manager Clint Hurdle made the announcement Tuesday. The Pirates begin the regular season on April 6 at Cincinnati.

Liriano will be the first Pirates pitcher to start on opening day in consecutive seasons since Oliver Perez in 2005-06.

"We just want to put to rest that we've had nine different opening day pitchers in a row," Hurdle said. "We wanted to settle down and kick that one to the curb."

The 31-year-old Liriano emerged as the Pirates' ace in 2013, when he went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA and led the franchise to its first postseason appearance in two decades. In 2014, while dealing with groin and oblique injuries, he overcame a 1-7 start to finish 7-10 with a 3.38 ERA.

The left-hander signed a three-year, $39 million deal with the Pirates in December.

"Frankie has earned it, in our minds," Hurdle said.

Hurdle said the coaching staff discussed "a number" of options for the opening day starter, namely right-handers Gerrit Cole and A.J. Burnett, who was the Pirates' opening day starter in 2013. Ultimately, Hurdle said, the decision came down to "the volume of work."

"When Frank has been healthy, he has been a very solid anchor in our rotation." Hurdle said.

Cole will start Game 2, followed by Burnett, Vance Worley or Jeff Locke, and Charlie Morton. After the Pirates visit Milwaukee, Cole is in line to start the home opener April 13 against the Detroit Tigers.

"We feel this is our best fit getting out of the blocks," Hurdle said.

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