Monday, April 23, 2012

Choices with Liriano

As bas as it was, Sunday's start was
the best of the season so far for
Francisco Liriano.
Francisco Liriano had another uh-oh start Sunday. He sailed through the first two innings and then got wild in the third, in which he walked two, hit a third and surrendered to sac flies — two earned runs without a hit.

For the game, he threw five innings and gave up five runs, all officially earned (although one was tainted by a roof-rule double). More to the point, command was — again — a problem.

Ron Gardenhire spoke after the game of "taking a step back" with Liriano, implying that some sort of status change is in the offing, and seemed most concerned about getting his confidence back. Let's consider the options:

1) Leave him in the rotation. His next start figures to be Saturday against Kansas City. The Royals lineup is the strongest part of a weak team, but it is slanted to left-handers and not as strong now as it projected to be this spring. If, as Gardenhire implied Sunday, a good outing is the key to getting Liriano back to where he was during exhibition play, the Royals might be the opponent he needs.

Problem: Is he capable right now have having a good outing? 

2) Put him in the bullpen. Nick Blackburn is scheduled to return to the rotation Tuesday, which had been Anthony Swarzak's slot. Swarzak, who had a short start against the Yankees on Thursday, threw two innings of relief Sunday and could easily slide into Liriano's turn.

Liriano would be used in low-leverage situations, at least until it is determined that he's ready for something more.

Problem: The rotation would be all right-handed pitchers of similiar stuff (Carl Pavano, Swarzak, Jason Marquis, Blackburn and Liam Hendriks), and the bullpen would have four lefties (Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, Matt Maloney and Liriano). Not the ideal mix.

3) Send him to the minor leagues. Scott Diamond is putting up ridiculous numbers at Rochester (1.07 ERA after Sunday's start) and could easily be flipped into Liriano's rotation slot. That would keep a lefty in the rotation and not overload the bullpen with southpaws.

Problem: While Liriano apparently has an option left, he has sufficient service time that a demotion would require his consent. That may not be forthcoming.

My guess is that Option 2 is what the Twins will try this week.


Luke Hughes was claimed on waivers by Oakland. Good luck to the Aussie.

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