Pirates plan to be careful with Maholm this season

The Pittsburgh Pirates plan to be more careful with pitcher Paul

Maholm this season.

Maholm went 8-9 with a 4.44 ERA last year, not what the Pirates

expected from their ace.

But there were times, pitching coach Joe Kerrigan said, when

Maholm insisted on taking his regular turn in the rotation despite

a sore left knee and illness. Kerrigan went along, and Maholm paid

the price with awful outings.

“This guy pitched with a whole bunch of injuries last year,”

Kerrigan said. “Some of it was our fault. There were a couple of

times when we shouldn’t have let him pitch with that knee.”

“But he’ll convince you – he’ll lie to you. He’s a real good

liar. We’re going to have to be more forceful, I think, if we see

that knee swell up a little bit. We’ve got to be smarter. We’ve got

to be stubborn about it,” he said.

Maholm dodged questions about his health last season, even after

being spotted wearing a knee brace before a handful of starts. Even

now, he insists the injury was not serious enough to prevent him

from pitching.

“There were games when I shouldn’t have gone out there and I

pitched badly,” Maholm said. “But there also were games when I

shouldn’t have gone out there and I pitched great. I would do it

again, because I expect to pitch every fifth day.”

Maholm, who signed a three-year, $14.5 million contract before

the 2009 season, is the highest-paid pitcher on the team. He picked

up victories in three of his first four starts last year, but began

fading in May.

Maholm’s knee pain comes and goes, a byproduct of past

surgeries. He said the swelling finally cleared up after the

All-Star break, when he went 10 days between outings.

“He got the knee fine, then he got sick,” Kerrigan said. “He

had the flu and tried to pitch in Minnesota. He was ashen white, I

remember, but he insisted on pitching. He had lots of weakness from

that for a couple of weeks.”

The Twins torched for Maholm eight runs in five-plus innings. He

allowed a career-high 14 hits in an 8-2 loss.

Over the next month, the normally reliable Maholm was wildly

inconsistent. He alternated blowout losses and wins, then was

outstanding in a mid-July matchup against San Francisco Giants ace

Tim Lincecum.

“It was tough, but at the end of the year I finished healthy

and started pitching like I know how,” Maholm said. “I know I had

other stuff going on all season, but I started out great for six

weeks. I finished up strong. I just need to stay consistent for 6-7

months.”

Maholm started the Pirates’ opener last year. Manager John

Russell said Sunday he is not ready to announce an opening day

starter this season.

NOTES: OF Jonathan Van Every, a non-roster invitee, checked in

Sunday to Pirate City but did not work out. That leaves five

players who have not yet arrived: Andrew McCutchen, Lastings

Milledge, Ronny Cedeno, Argenis Diaz and Gorkys Hernandez. … The

Pirates’ first full-squad workout is Tuesday.