PITTSBURGH -- Francisco Liriano pitched a simulated game on Wednesday for the first time since straining his left oblique on June 10.
The rehabbing lefty pitched a total of four innings, and manager Clint Hurdle said Liriano's next step could be a rehab assignment, but the club will wait to see how he feels on Thursday.
"He's throwing all of his pitches, working out of the windup and the stretch," said Hurdle, who watched three of Liriano's simulated innings. "There's some rust, but there seems to be no complications so far. So it's going well."
The trouble for Liriano -- who also tossed a 54-pitch bullpen session Sunday -- began on one pitch in the fourth inning of a start against the Cubs when he felt a pain in his side and needed to leave the game. The 30-year-old Dominican was a pleasant surprise for the Pirates last season and was the Bucs' Opening Day starter this season, but has struggled to the tune of a 4.60 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 1-6 record in 14 outings.
Liriano was the second Pirate pitcher to be sent to the disabled list last month, joining right-hander Gerrit Cole. After missing two and a half weeks with a fatigued right shoulder, Cole returned to action last Saturday against the Mets with three simulated games, but no Minor League tuneups as part of his rehab. Cole was hit hard in his comeback, giving up seven hits and tying a career worst with five earned runs in just four innings.
McCutchen departs early after fouling ball off foot
PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen left Wednesday night's win against the D-Backs after fouling a ball off his left foot in the eighth inning, though the injury does not appear to be serious.
McCutchen completed the at-bat with an RBI single, and gingerly jogged to first base. He was replaced defensively in the ninth, but it was likely for precautionary reasons.
The reigning National League MVP had the foot wrapped with ice on the top of it in the Pirates' clubhouse after the game, and he did not speak with the media. Manager Clint Hurdle also had no significant update on McCutchen in his meeting with the media.
McCutchen was named the June NL Player of the Month earlier on Wednesday. He went 2-for-4 in the 5-1 victory and is hitting .313 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs this season.
During ASG voting, Walker remains focused on winning
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have won eight of their last 10, are three games above .500 for the first time in nearly three months and are 5-2 since Neil Walker returned from the disabled list.
One of the only places the numbers aren't in Walker's favor lately is in the National League All-Star voting, where he trails the Phillies' Chase Utley by almost one million votes. But that's far from the front of his mind.
"If it happens, it's great, if it doesn't -- there's a lot of very deserving people," Walker said. "… I'm back, I'm healthy, happy, we're playing good baseball -- in my opinion, that's the most important thing."
Walker returned to the Pirates' lineup last Tuesday after missing 16 days to recover from an appendectomy. Walker has hit safely in four consecutive games, but is batting .200 (5-for-25) since he was activated with no multi-hit games. For the season, Walker is hitting .273/.341/.432 and his 11 homers are the most of any NL second baseman.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15 on FOX.
• The Pirates have been outhit in seven straight games by a total of 71-50, but they are 5-2 in that stretch. In all other games in which the Pirates have been outhit this season, they're 4-25.
• Wednesday was the first day Major League clubs could sign international free agents, and the Pirates stepped up to ink Yondry Contreras, a 16-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic, for $400,000.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.