Monday, September 28, 2009

What next for Liriano?

The tragic number is six headed into the Motown Showdown, and it's pretty clear what Minnesota needs out of that four-game series: A sweep.

If the Tigers win three (or four) of the four games, they clinch. A 2-2 split leaves the Twins two games out with three to play — and one of those three will be against Zach Grienke. Even a 3-1 series win only pulls the Twins into a tie with Detroit.

At least the Twins won't have to deploy their fifth starter in that series. Francisco Liriano got the call Sunday and displayed the same basic problem he displayed for most of the season: No command of the fastball.

Five outs, four baserunners, three runs — a three-run homer to Yunisesky Betancourt, which might be excusable if the man could actually hit — and just 24 strikes in his 45 pitches.

A quick hook, and deservedly so.

Not that Jeff Manship was a while lot better in his long-relief outing at throwing strikes — 66 pitches, 32 of them balls. But Manship at least got 11 outs and only allowed one run.

It ws, in fact, a very un-Twins like day on the hill; Bobby Keppel threw nine balls in his 19 pitches. Of the four guys who pitched Sunday for Minnesota, only Jesse Crain pounded the strike zone.

Assuming that Friday's game — the next, and final, time this spot in the rotation cycles around — matters, who should Ron Gardenhire call on?

He can't, right now, have any faith in either Liriano or Manship. But they remain the best options; Gardy sure isn't giving another start to Armando Gabino. Pick one, pull him fast, and make it a bullpen game.

My choice would be Manship. But I'm not in the clubhouse, and I'm not looking in their eyes to see who's afraid to fail. One danger is putting an "unready" prospect in a key game is the long-term damage a bad game can do to his psyche.


Meanwhile, out in Chicago the White Sox

a) beat the Tigers and

b) still didn't get to watch football.

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