Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The annual Francisco Liriano hype

Important if true: From the Pioneer Press today: Ron Gardenhire says Francisco Liriano is impressing in winter ball.

"I just got a report that he's throwing the living fire out of the ball down in the Dominican (Republic)," the Twins manager said. "He threw eight innings the other day, and his fastball was 92 to 94 (mph) and his slider was filthy. That's a really good thing, because he can be the bonus if we can get him on track."

Let's backtrack. Liriano in 2006 — that wondrous nine weeks or so when he was absolutely incredible — was topping out on the radar gun at around 97 mph before his injury. Last year, he was in the low 90s. Nothing impressive, then, on the velocity part of this report; it's what he was doing last season.

Liriano had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery late in 2006, missed all of 2007, and the reports during the the 2007-08 offseason — winter ball in the Dominican — had him throwing in the mid 90s.

Then he reported to training camp, and the velocity he displayed in Fort Myers was nowhere near what it had been in 2006.

The moral here: Don't figure that he's back until he shows it in the states. He should be regarded as a pitcher with slightly above average stuff and below average command, because that's what he demonstrated himself to be last season. Winter ball reports on Liriano have been inflated before.

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