March 31, 2010

Rejuvenated Liriano Grabs Final Rotation Spot



Francisco Liriano made his final spring start yesterday afternoon, tossing six shutout innings versus the Pirates, and afterward the 26-year-old southpaw revealed that he's been promised the final rotation spot despite the Twins holding off an official announcement for now. Liriano created many doubts by going 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA in 137 innings last year, but turned heads by dominating the Dominican Winter League and kept rolling with a great spring training.

Yesterday's eight-strikeout, three-hit outing against the Pirates leaves Liriano with a 2.70 ERA this spring and his 30-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20 innings is incredibly promising. Better yet reviews of his raw stuff have been equally positive and he appears to have regained some of the velocity lost following Tommy John surgery in late 2006. Combined between winter ball and spring training Liriano racked up 97 strikeouts with just 12 walks in 68.2 innings.

That dominance came against inconsistent, often mediocre levels of competition and even with some of his velocity returning Liriano isn't the unhittable phenom who overpowered the league with a mid-90s fastball, parachute changeup, and high-80s slider of death in 2006. However, his confidence has seemingly returned, he's throwing strikes with a far livelier fastball than we saw last season, and his slider/changeup combo still misses tons of bats.

The jaw-dropping revelation of an ace from 2006 isn't coming back, but if Liriano stays healthy and continues to pitch like he has during the past few months he'll make for one hell of a fifth starter and could even be capable of re-emerging as a front-of-the-rotation option. Obviously the real test will begin April 9 against Chicago, but in the meantime I've gone from skeptical to cautiously optimistic about Liriano's progress and it's great to see him thriving again.

5 Comments »

  1. The control numbers are what really stick out for me – here are his K/BB over his career:

    2005: 33/7
    2006: 144/32

    ** Tommy John **

    2008 Spring Training: 15/9
    2008 Reg: 67/32
    2009 ST: 27/12
    2009 Reg: 122/65
    2010 ST: 30/5

    Regardless of the competition he’s facing, 30/5 is nothing to scoff at. The control is back and at the very least he will be a solid 3rd starter. If the slider is back, could we be talking top of the rotation?

    Comment by Dan — March 31, 2010 @ 12:45 am

  2. Not that this is crucial, but does anyone know what kind of velocity Liriano was showing in these recent games?

    Comment by Andy — March 31, 2010 @ 6:25 am

  3. Hopefully his dominican league and spring training numbers, paired with the announcement of him grabbing the last rotation spot, will finally put an end to people wishing he would grab the closer role.

    I am of the belief that with his numbers in 2006, and the fact that his velocity has seemingly been increasing since his surgery, he at least deserves every possible chance to try and regain any semblance of the stuff he used to have. Taking a guy who is just beginning to regain confidence in himself as a starting pitcher, with the abilities and raw “stuff” that he has and converting him to a reliever at this point would be extremely unusual.

    Comment by Adam — March 31, 2010 @ 8:34 am

  4. Wow, I did not realize he was just 26 years old? Same age and Anthony Slama. That to me reminds me how much promise this guy still has. He has been arund so long i guess I assumed he was in his later 20′s. He has gained a lot of experience and is still young pithcer, entering his prime. He may abe Kubel type, a guy that just takes longer to come back from a massive injury, but yong enough to have time to get back to being a stud. Go Fransico, Go Twins.

    Comment by Ezdave — March 31, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  5. It would be interesting to hear how Liriano has changed his pitching mechanics since his surgery. Any information on that? I think we all hope Francisco has a long and successful career. Keep it up, Franchise!

    Comment by jimbo92107 — March 31, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

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