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PIT@NYM: Liriano strikes out nine in Pirates debut

Francisco Liriano missed the Pirates' first 35 games, made sure his body was in good health and returned throwing a fastball as hard as he has since 2010, when he won a career-high 14 games with the Twins.

"He made himself a popular addition right away," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Liriano, who takes the mound against the Brewers on Thursday, threw 90 pitches over 5 1/3 innings Saturday, holding the Mets to just one run while striking out nine.

Working primarily with off-speed pitches, Liriano induced swings-and-misses on 20 percent of his strikes.

"And he had enough fastball in case they were sitting soft," Hurdle said.

A healthy Liriano, who is guaranteed $1 million this season but has the opportunity to make $13.75 million over the next two years, could do wonders for the Pirates' already-strong starting rotation, which currently includes three left-handers: Liriano, Wandy Rodriguez and Jeff Locke.

"All three are different," Hurdle said. "Well, Wandy and Locke are probably comparable, but I don't see that as being a bad thing. When one goes out and pitches well, the other has something to latch on to. I like the left-handers. I like having three in the rotation. Time will tell, but I'm not sold on switching them up right now. If we need to later, we'll consider it."

There might not be another team playing as poorly as the Brewers have in the month of May.

With a 2-11 record in the month, the Brewers have fallen from 1 1/2 games out of first place to 9 1/2 games out in the National League Central.

Hiram Burgos will take the mound following an outing he called the worst of his career. The 25-year-old right-hander had a 2.86 ERA during his career in Triple-A and looked just as good over his first three appearances in the Majors this season, allowing six earned runs over 18 innings.

Then, in Burgos' last start: 12 runs, 10 earned, over three innings.

"But the good thing about baseball is there is another game tomorrow, and you just have to keep focused," he said. "This is all part of the game, now you have to move on."

Pirates: McCutchen hoping weather changes his fortune
Andrew McCutchen is still waiting for the balls to start falling his way. He went 0-for-3 Wednesday, though he reached base twice and stole two bases, giving him nine steals on the season.

McCutchen, who hit .327 with 31 homers last year, is hitting .260 with five homers in 39 games.

"With the cold and all, balls just haven't been carrying," he said. "Summer's got to be right around the corner, and when it warms up, our bats will too."

Brewers: K-Rod coming back
The Brewers called up Francisco Rodriguez on Wednesday and planned to activate him before Thursday's game.

The 31-year-old threw four scoreless innings with seven strikeouts during Minor League appearances. The Brewers had until Wednesday to call up the veteran closer, or he could have opted out of his contract.

Manager Ron Roenicke said he was not yet sure how Rodriguez would be used, but he expected him to contribute.

"Velocity-wise he's back up to, I don't know if he's quite where he was last year, but he's 90-91," Roenicke said. "The changeup has been good. I saw the outing [Monday night], and he got through the inning OK and then was better on Tuesday morning. So we'll see."

Worth noting
• Roenicke said the team still had confidence in closer John Axford, who coughed up a 3-2 lead Tuesday and has a 9.20 ERA this season. Axford said he has been frustrated but that his body feels good.

• Corey Hart is still a couple of weeks away from going on a rehab assignment.

• Pirates closer Jason Grilli is a perfect 16-for-16 in save chances, while Mark Melancon has a 0.43 ERA and 14 holds in the set-up role.

• Carlos Gomez is 5-for-8 with two home runs off Liriano, his former teammate on the Twins.

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