Jim Souhan: Twins wonder which Francisco Liriano will show up this season

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 5, 2012 - 12:18 PM

Francisco Liriano has been erratic since '06, when he was brilliant.

hide

Francisco Liriano started the game against the Red Sox, pitching two innings and looking like the Frankie of old.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores , Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

FORT MYERS, FLA. — The Twins better hope Francisco Liriano has an affinity for money. All other motivations seem to have failed him.

Liriano pitched two innings in his spring training debut on Sunday. He allowed two baserunners but no runs, and ended both innings by using his slider to strike out Red Sox hitters who reacted to the pitch with a level of surprise usually reserved for South Florida drivers who change lanes without signaling.

For a couple of innings, he elicited memories of Good Frankie. A glance at his career reveals lots of Bad Frankie. This season, Liriano will determine whether he's going to become Rich Frankie.

He's due to become a free agent after the season. At his best, he's a lefthander with a diving slider capable of striking out 201 batters in 191 innings, as he did in 2010. At his worst, he's a mechanical mess on par with the Pontiac Aztec.

This season, Liriano will set his market. Good Frankie would be considered a growth stock. Bad Frankie might be nothing more than a tax writeoff.

"If you get past that 3-2 slider for a walk, after that he was good,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The ball came out of his hand efficient enough. First time out there, perfect.''

I asked Gardenhire if he's figured out Liriano after six years together.

"Have you?'' Gardenhire shot back, with a smile on his face.

No.

"I'm no different than you,'' Gardenhire said. "It's a confidence thing with him. If he gets a little confused out there at times, that's when he starts to search to find things, that's when you see him really scuffle.''

If you had Liriano's slider, wouldn't you be confident?

"Very confident,'' Gardenhire said.

Instead, Liriano's demeanor remains more suited to house cat than carnivore.

It's difficult to post a 5-plus ERA when you possess a dynamic slider, and yet since 2006, Liriano has been, in order: brilliant, injured, recovering, horrid, promising and disappointing.

In 2006, he was virtually unhittable. In 2008, following surgery, he pitched well enough to suggest he could regain his earlier form.

Instead, he's posted an ERA starting with a 5 in two of three seasons. Last year, he came to spring training with a sore shoulder and managed just 134 innings pitched. He's never pitched more than 200 innings in any professional season.

"I just want to try to stay healthy and go deep in the game, not throw many pitches early in the game,'' Liriano said after the Twins' 8-3 loss to the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. "I want to go at least 200 innings.''

If he wants to perform like the ace the Twins need him to be, he'd be better off shooting for 200 strikeouts.

When Liriano has been good, or at least serviceable, he has relied on strikeouts and has pitched fearlessly. In 2006, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was 4.50. His ERA was 2.16.

In 2008, his strikeout-to-walk ratio fell to 2.09 following his surgery, and his ERA rose to 3.91.

In 2009, his ratio fell to 1.88 and his ERA ballooned to a career-worst 5.80.

He rebounded in 2010, with his ratio improving to 3.47 and his ERA falling to 3.62. He finished 11th in Cy Young voting.

Last year, Liriano proved that he is untrustworthy. He showed up to spring training with a sore shoulder, admitting that he had not diligently performed his pitching exercises. He managed 134 innings, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio fell to 1.49. His ERA: 5.09.

"I don't think about the future right now,'' he said. "Whatever happens, happens. The main thing is just be healthy.''

Is he?

"It's a lot different than last year,'' he said. "Last year, the shoulder was bothering me a lot. Nothing's bothering me right now.''

Liriano is one year removed from his best post-surgery season and one season from free agency. If this is a career crossroads, one road leads toward riches, the other toward career ruin. You just never know which way Liriano is going to turn.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Cleveland «0020320007140
Minnesota010010000272
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:C.Kluber(17-9) L:A.Swarzak(3-2)
HR: CLE- None MIN- None

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 10 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: N. Karns 5
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak 2
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 5
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 8
Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5
Texas - WP: S. Tolleson 2 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Street 1
Philadelphia - LP: M. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Doolittle 8
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 2
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Calgary 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Edmonton 0 FINAL
Calgary 1
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How sure are you that the Twins are on the road to improving?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close