ST. LOUIS -- When the Pirates get to Cincinnati this weekend for their final pre-All-Star-break action, Gerrit Cole will have a chance to consult with Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto.
And what Cole hears should be encouraging: Cueto's 2013 season was wrecked by a injured right lat -- the same issue that sent Cole back to the disabled list -- but he has recovered nicely, and he is one of the frontrunners for the 2014 National League Cy Young Award.
Their injuries, however, are not identical. Cueto had a strained lat; Cole has a tight lat, considered to be less severe. Cole felt the tightness during his Friday start against the Phillies before leaving the game after the fifth inning.
The club does not see a need to completely shut him down and, in fact, Cole was due to play some light catch on Tuesday.
"Maybe we'll script a [return] program for him [on Wednesday]," said manager Clint Hurdle.
The Bucs will make sure Cole is on a slower track back from this injury than he was from the shoulder fatigue that had him on the DL from June 8-28. He threw three simulated games, but no rehab games, prior to rejoining the rotation.
"There will be a rehab start involved down the line [this time]," confirmed Hurdle, who alluded to the tricky task of reining in his eager young pitcher. "We want him to understand that when he comes back, we want to give him an opportunity to thrive, not just survive, and pitch instinctively so he can go out and be the Gerrit Cole we've seen in the past. I don't think that's far away."
Liriano will return to rotation for series vs. Reds
ST. LOUIS -- Left-hander Francisco Liriano was back in the clubhouse on Tuesday, one day after a convincing rehab start in Triple-A Indianapolis, and therefore will be back in the rotation this weekend.
Manager Clint Hurdle announced following a brief meeting in his office with Liriano that the team will "get him in the rotation; he'll probably pitch before the [All-Star] break."
Liriano went on the disabled list with a strained left oblique on June 11, and his sharp six innings with the Indians -- no runs, three hits, eight strikeouts, no walks -- persuaded all involved that no further prep time is needed.
"The report I got from [Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer] was, he got sharper as the game went on," Hurdle said. "The fastball velocity was good -- 91 to 95 -- and the change and breaking balls played. No more rehab starts."
The Pirates will wrap up first-half play with a weekend series in Cincinnati. Liriano could face the Reds on Saturday on his regular four days' rest, or on Sunday with an extra day between starts.
His return would mean a skipped start for either Charlie Morton or Vance Worley, who faced the Cardinals in the first two games of the series at Busch Stadium. Hurdle planned to huddle with general Neal Huntington before deciding when Liriano will get the ball.
First number, last word
6-17-09: The date of Andrew McCutchen's first career home run -- in the Metrodome in the Twin Cities, where he will be returning for next week's All-Star Game. McCutchen's No. 1 victim? Liriano.
"First time I've encountered that. It looked funny -- he was protecting the plate with two strikes, and I'm not so sure throwing his elbow into the ball was the first thing in his mind." -- Hurdle, on Russell Martin being hit by a pitch in Monday's game but not being awarded first base because, in umpire Alan Porter's judgment, he did not try to avoid getting hit
• Pirates' pitchers allowed 14 hits in four games through Monday, the fewest in four consecutive games since June 7-12, 1970 -- when Bob Veale, Steve Blass, Bob Moose and Dock Ellis gave up a total of 13.
The last outing in that string was Ellis' infamous no-hitter against the Padres in San Diego, the one he claimed to throw while high on LSD.
• A half-dozen Altoona Curve players were chosen to the Eastern League midseason All-Star team: Adrian Sampson, Alen Hanson, Elias Diaz, Willy Garcia, Drew Maggi and Ryan Beckman. That ties the most for the Bucs' Double-A affiliate, also accomplished in 2006-07.
• Nicole Dow-Macosky, of Horsham, Pa., is the Pirates' honoree, as chosen predominantly through online voting, in the MLB-wide Target Presents PEOPLE All-Star Teachers campaign. One teacher was chosen to represent each of the 30 teams in the initiative, which salutes teachers' impact on the lives of their students and communities.
All 30 winners will be part of All-Star Week activities in Minnesota and will receive on-field recognition prior to the 2014 MLB All-Star Game in Target Field.
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.