Twins: GM expects Liriano to be ready next year

New Twins General Manager Bill Smith said Friday that he expects lefthander Francisco Liriano to contribute next season, based on his successful rehabilitation in Fort Myers, Fla., following Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.

Smith this week watched Liriano throw a bullpen session and came away thinking that Liriano, barring any setbacks, is ready.

"He is healthy and he is strong," Smith said. "He has been given the go-ahead to prepare for spring training as he normally would."

Liriano, who turns 24 on Friday, was 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA for the Twins in 2006 before damaging the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow late in the season. He had ligament replacement surgery Nov. 8.

He spent most of the year rehabbing in Fort Myers under the watch of Twins rehabilitation coordinator Lanning Tucker.

Smith said Liriano has gone home to the Dominican Republic for the offseason but will return to Fort Myers in January and will work out with staff ace Johan Santana in preparation for spring training.

"We're pleased with the progress he's made," Smith said. "He's healthy and has had no setbacks."

Koskie wants to play

Former Twins third baseman Corey Koskie, whose $6.5 million option was declined by Milwaukee on Friday, hasn't played since July 2006 because of postconcussion syndrome suffered while chasing a fly ball.

He was limited to very light activity when the Brewers visited the Twins in June, but Koskie, who lives in Medina, said Friday that he has made so much progress the past six weeks, he can see himself trying to play again next year.

"I'm probably 100 percent better than that last time you saw me," said Koskie, who played for the Twins from 1998 to 2004. "The funny thing about this injury is that I thought I was doing pretty good then. I look back now, and I was still in la-la land."

After visiting doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and working with a Twin Cities specialist, Koskie no longer suffers from headaches or dizziness after the lightest of activities. He can lift some weights and get some light exercise in. Most importantly for him, he can play with his kids. He figures that, at this rate, he will be ready for baseball activities by spring training.

Koskie, 34, gets a $500,000 buyout from the Brewers and can file for free agency after the World Series. The Twins need a third baseman, and Koskie might be looking for a job.

But it's unknown how much he has left. Koskie said he first has to be cleared to play, then decide if he should play, then figure out with which team.

Twins in talks

The Twins have been in contact with the agents for outfielder Torii Hunter and righthander Carlos Silva. Both can become free agents after the World Series. Indications earlier this week were that the club has not improved on the three-year, $45 million offer to Hunter that he rejected late in the season.

Most soon-to-be free agents who get to this point without a deal want to test the free-agent market.

Etc.

• Twins prospects finished up instructional league activities last week. The group included 2003 first-round pick Matt Moses. A third baseman, he struggled at Class AAA Rochester this year and in June was demoted to Class AA New Britain, where he played some at second base. He split time between second and third base in the instructional league.

• Joe Pohlad, grandson of owner Carl and son of executive board member Bob, has joined the Twins as assistant director of baseball operations, a position formerly held by Brad Steil before he was promoted to director during the big front office shakeup Sept. 13.

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