Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is it time to check out Liriano again?

Pioneer Press writer Kelsie Smith had an interesting story in today's paper regarding Francisco Liriano. Liriano, 24, appears back on track playing for the Rochester Red Wings, the Twins' Class AAA affiliate in the International League.

Liriano improved to 7-2 with a 3.53 ERA prior to the minor league all-star break. Those numbers are impressive, but even more so when you consider how terrible the lefty was when he was first sent down to Rochester.

In his last 10 games since May 26, Liriano has gone 7-0 with a 3.30 ERA, pitched 62 2/3 innings, allowed 53 hits and struck out 64. His WHIP is a very strong 1.03. Even more impressive (considering his recovery from Tommy John surgery) are his most recent outings. Liriano hasn't allowed an earned run since June 25 and in his last three starts he's amassed 20 innings pitched, 10 hits allowed, no earned runs, three walks and 24 strikeouts. Those are dominating numbers. No if's or but's.

According to Smith's article, Liriano and his agent are getting antsy to return to the big league club. There is some dischord between the agent and the general manager's office. I guess that's to be expected -- GM's don't typically like agents dictating their jobs or implying what they should do. Agents are working for the best of their clients. In this case, it's time for Billy Smith to do the right thing and get Liriano up to spend time with pitching coach Rick Anderson. It's time to see if there is promise in the once-dead arm.

The Twins are surprising the AL Central and doing well with their pitching as is, but come on: there's room for an arm like this in the rotation (or, gasp!, the bullpen).

Scott Baker (6-2, 3.47), Nick Blackburn (7-5, 3.65), Glen Perkins (6-2, 4.14) and Kevin Slowey (6-6, 4.26) are pitching amazingly well for such a young rotation. To fit Liriano, it would leave out the aging and sloth-like Livan Hernandez (9-6, 5.44) or force the Twins to go to what the Pioneer Press said Ron Gardenhire is contemplating: a six-man rotation.

There are other spots for Lirano: Boof (3-6, 6.50) doesn't look like he belongs any longer. Brian "Smallmouth" Bass (3-3, 5.31) and Craig Breslow (0-0, 2.18) are OK. Spaz Neshek is out for the season and a setup man more dominating that Matt GRRR (5-4, 3.35) is desirable. The Twins don't like the idea of the bullpen as much as Liriano's agent. Remember when a young lefty named Johan Santana complained he didn't belong in the bullpen back in 2002? He may have been right, but you can't argue with his output since then -- I don't think his ego was shattered.

If nothing else, Liriano's .200 career batting average is only 20 points lower than Mike Lamb's season average of .220. Maybe he can fill in as a left-handed pinch-hitter who flies out to right each time up. That is, until the Twins trade Hernandez in the next few weeks ...

No comments: