Pittsburgh Pirates

Spring training | Pittsburgh's Liriano shows Tampa Bay's Burch Smith how to impress

PORT CHARLOTTE -- Burch Smith had too many things on his mind to study crafty Pittsburgh pitcher Francisco Liriano.

The 24-year-old Smith is fighting to earn a spot in Tampa Bay's starting rotation while Liriano was being Liriano pitching three solid innings in Pittsburgh's 4-3 victory over the Rays on Tuesday at Charlotte Sports Park.

Smith didn't do anything to hurt his chances in the eyes of Rays manager Kevin Cash. Liriano isn't in a must-impress mode, but was very impressive nonetheless.

"Burch looked good. He had a good fastball-change-up combo going really early and was able to pitch out of some runners on base situations," Cash said. "The ball comes out of his hand really good. He was at about 92-93 (mph), but he is a tick higher than that so when that comes around I like what he offers."

The Rays' pitching situation is fluid. Drew Smyly has been diagnosed with tendinitis in his shoulder. But on the positive side, Alex Colome finally arrived at camp after being held up with visa problems in the Dominican Republic.

Smith was one of five players acquired during the offseason by the Rays from the San Diego Padres in a three-team, 11-player trade that involved Wil Myers. Smith was drafted by San Diego in 2011 and missed all of last season with a forearm injury.

The main thing for Smith this spring is also to stay healthy, but he has to impress. He threw three innings Tuesday, giving up three hits and an earned run while striking out two.

"I feel like I am coming along. I hadn't pitched three innings in almost a year," Smith said. "It's part of spring, getting back into the swing of things. My fastball command was average. I threw a couple of good change-ups. I am playing with a new pitch, a slider, so overall I am pretty happy, but as far as overall outing. It was kind of an average outing."

A lot of things can happen between now and the season opener, which is one reason Cash was happy to see Smith turn in a solid performance.

"He fits right in that combination of a clump of guys that are here," Cash said. "I don't want to leave names off, but (Nathan) Karns, (Matt) Andriese and Colome, a bunch of guys who are competing (for that fifth spot). You go into a season knowing that you can never have enough starting pitching. I think the intent is to stretch him out. He is going to be a factor, whether it's right away or at some point during the season."

Liriano has had his share of medical issues, and the 31 year-old lefty is hoping to get through spring healthy for the first time since 2012.

Liriano is locked solid into the Pirates rotation but in Smith, he might see himself when he was a 24-year-old.

"I feel pretty good. I am working on my fastball command and delivery and just trying to get better with each start," Liriano said. "I threw three innings today, and they told me the next time they want me to throw four. My goal is to just keep working on my fastball. I threw a lot of strikes."

Liriano threw a mixture of fastballs, sliders and change-ups. Cash said his change-up was the reason several Rays lost control of their bats and tossed them into the stands. One fan, who was hit by a bat that flew out of the hands of Evan Longoria, had to be removed from the stadium in a stretcher.

"You get a guy like Liriano who has a very good change-up and catches some guys who aren't totally timed up and you are going to see that (bats flying) a little more often," Cash said.

Longoria, Cash and Rick Vaughn, Rays vice-president of communications, visited the fan at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte after the game. His name was not released.

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