A year and a half and one major surgery later Francisco Liriano is back in the majors. Will he ever be able to return to his previous dominance? Will the surgery hinder his ability to throw that devastating slider? Can the Twins survive without him? All of these questions have surrounded the return of one of the game’s most spectacular young stars, and on Sunday we received a preview of the answer.
Liriano came into the game against the Royals having already made two minor league starts, though in those games he had an ERA of 7.56. After Sunday’s loss to the Royals it wasn’t looking any better. He threw four and two thirds innings, striking out four and walking five. The four earned runs he gave up shot his ERA in the majors this season to 7.71 while ultimately sending the Twins to their demise in a 5-1 loss.
The Twins offense was no help whatsoever; they had only three hits and failed to hit the ball hard at any point in the game. But what is to be learned from this outing by the Twins former Rookie of the Year candidate? Patience and control are needed.
We need to remember that the last time Liriano pitched in a major league game was September 13, 2006. After 19 months and only a few outings, all of them in Spring Training or the minor leagues, we cannot expect him to be back to form just like that.
As many of us saw on Sunday, Liriano will need to work on his control, a fact that was evident by the workout Mike Redmond got from behind the plate. While people may have been impressed by the four strikeouts they need to realize he also had five walks and with all those strikes and balls adding up to 90 pitches over less than five innings there is no way the Twins will be able to rely on Liriano with that kind of control.
The solution is simple, yet painful for us Twins fans. The Twins have a reputation of handling their pitchers well, they try not to rush them so they don’t get hurt and can develop in the minors easily. In this case I believe that Liriano just needs a little more time, maybe a couple starts in Rochester, to regain both his control and confidence.
John Moore, diversions editor