BRADENTON, FLA. – Tired of two years worth of fending off one injury after another, Francisco Liriano seriously considered taking the 2013 season off to let his body heal. But the Twins tried to talk him out of it, and the Pirates eventually succeeded.
Naturally, he immediately got hurt again.
“It’s so frustrating, because I want to be healthy,” the former Twins lefthander said Saturday. “But I’m getting better. I want to help this team.”
He wasn’t sure they would want him anymore after his bizarre Christmas Day injury. Liriano said he slammed into a door as a joke, intending to startle his young children. “I wanted to make a big noise, so I hit it hard. Ten minutes later, my arm was hurting,” Liriano said. “I went to the hospital, and they said it was broke. I’m just glad it was this arm.”
His upper right arm was in a cast for seven weeks, until the humerus bone healed. His contract, a two-year, $12.75 million deal, remained mostly intact, too, as long as there are no lingering effects from the broken arm.
Liriano said the Twins, who traded him to the White Sox at the trade deadline last July, offered him a two-year contract last winter, too, but the Pirates’ offer was better. Besides, he said, “I wanted to go to the National League. I wanted to try something different. For me, it’s a chance to kind of start over.”
Even if the start comes later than planned. Liriano plans to throw light bullpen sessions next week, in hopes of being ready for live batting practice in another 10 days or so. He won’t be ready for Grapefruit League games, but hopes to join his new team by late April. “I was [in Minnesota] for six years, so this is different. But I was up and down there,” said Liriano, who was both sensational and dismal in Minnesota, and usually unpredictable. “I’d like to find a way to stay on one level. Pitch more innings, pitch better, consistent.”
He will always have fans in Minnesota. “You don’t get more dominant than he was” in 2006, manager Ron Gardenhire said of Liriano’s breakthrough rookie season. “He gave us everything. I hope it all goes well for him, because he’s the kind of guy you root for.”
He will be a hitter in his new, DH-less league, too. Liriano winced at the thought.
“I don’t like to hit, especially with this arm,” he said. “I’m going to have to bunt every at-bat for the first couple of months.”