Souhan: One inning unravels Liriano

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 10, 2012 - 8:01 PM

The Twins lefthander has long straddled the line between dazzling and frustrating, always a puzzle with a piece missing.

hide

The Twins need Francisco Liriano either to help them win or become trade bait.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Unless he learns how to cloak his fastball with stealth technology, Francisco Liriano might never step onto a mound with a better chance to dominate an opponent than he had on Sunday at Target Field.

He faced a terrible Cubs team and a lineup weaker than the Wi-Fi you steal from your neighbor. The day was hot, reminiscent of Liriano's youth in the Dominican Republic, and Liriano was working in one of baseball's most notable pitchers' parks.

Liriano had his personal catcher and psychotherapist behind the plate, Drew Butera. His team was playing its best baseball since last June, and he had two consecutive strong starts atop his heavily whited-out résumé.

Given all of those advantages, Liriano dominated for five innings.

And failed to complete the sixth.

Liriano once was known as Frankie Franchise. Now he's Francisco Futility.

He failed as a starter for a team that begged him to be its ace, failed at the beginning of a contract season, when most athletes experience season-long adrenaline surges, and then he failed in relief. Reinstated as a starter for no reason other than that deportation would have seemed harsh, Liriano teased once again, allowing only one earned run in 12 innings against Oakland and Kansas City, two teams weaker than O'Doul's.

Sunday offered Liriano a chance to pound another lineup softer than a bean-bag chair, and he continued his dominance, allowing only one run in the first five innings. That one run was the result of a hard-hit ball that Josh Willingham could have caught in deep left field.

Through five, Liriano had allowed only three baserunners and had walked only one Cub.

He started the sixth by walking Reed Johnson and giving up a double to Starlin Castro, putting runners on second and third.

David DeJesus scored one run with a grounder to second. Liriano allowed the next with a wild pitch, his second of the game.

Liriano intentionally walked Soriano, struck out Jeff Baker, then threw the wild pitch and gave up a double to Joe Mather. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire popped quickly out of the dugout and called in Brian Duensing.

"I was happy with the way he threw the ball," Gardenhire said. "Just that one inning got out of hand. Frankie threw the ball really good."

Gardenhire has no choice but to handle Liriano with oven mitts. The Twins need him to either help them win, or to increase his trade value.

Gardenhire chose to emphasize Liriano's five strong innings. Those who have watched Liriano's career collapse the past two seasons should have trouble ignoring his free fall in the sixth.

He entered the sixth having thrown only 63 pitches. Six batters and two outs later, he had thrown 89.

Liriano was supposed to be the Twins' ace. More than a third of the way through his contract year, he is 1-7 with a 6.45 ERA. The Twins didn't give him much of a chance to win Sunday, but better control in the sixth would have kept the game competitive.

If Liriano was 4-4, the Twins would be tied with Detroit for third place in the AL Central. Instead, they remain in last place in a division so weak it might be relegated to the Northwoods League.

"I'm happy with Frankie's performance as far as throwing the ball," Gardenhire said.

Liriano has a 2.55 ERA in his past three starts, striking out 23 in 17 2/3 innings. He has bonded with Butera and calmed his delivery. Sunday, he cruised through five, then reverted to his broken-water-sprinkler delivery, making Butera dance like an extra in a Western whose shoes are being peppered by bullets from a Colt 45.

Liriano is no fun to criticize. He seems shy and insecure. He's quiet and polite. He's also wasting considerable talent, damaging his team and his career.

He has got about seven weeks to help the Twins contend, or help them find him a new home. As he proved for five innings, he is capable of controlling his pitches. As he proved again in the sixth, he is not always capable of controlling himself.

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. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 103 1st OT 0:04
Houston 104
Golden State 23 1st Qtr 2:00
Boston 30
Philadelphia 9 1st Qtr 3:57
Indiana 15
Portland 27 1st Qtr 2:54
Sacramento 17
Charlotte 25 1st Qtr 2:14
Orlando 18
Oklahoma City 5:30 PM
LA Lakers
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Denver
Los Angeles 1 3rd Prd 5:34
Winnipeg 4
Tampa Bay 1 2nd Prd 5:29
Florida 2
Columbus 1 2nd Prd 8:37
Pittsburgh 3
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Dallas
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Vancouver
SMU 73 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 56 FINAL
California 73
South Florida 55 FINAL
Houston 72
Marquette 66 FINAL
Providence 77
Michigan State 61 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
Siena 57 2nd Half 0:18
Monmouth 60
Pittsburgh 5:30 PM
Wake Forest
Oregon 6:00 PM
Stanford
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Colorado
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
Xavier 74
James Madison 74 FINAL
Delaware 71
Towson 45 FINAL
Drexel 50
Illinois State 50 FINAL
Bradley 60
Southern Ill 74 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 70
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Wichita State 66
Minnesota 76 FINAL
(17) Iowa 92
(15) North Carolina 80 FINAL
(16) Duke 81
Alabama 73 FINAL
Auburn 80
(9) Florida State 69 FINAL
Miami-Florida 55
Arkansas 41 FINAL
Missouri 57
Georgia 52 FINAL
Florida 45
Dayton 95 FINAL
Saint Louis 68
Drake 57 FINAL
Missouri State 86
Colorado 46 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 59
(19) Stanford 55 FINAL
Oregon 62
Marquette 82 FINAL
DePaul 99
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 60
Vanderbilt 36 2nd Half 10:21
(6) Tennessee 55
(2) South Carolina 25 2nd Half 15:38
(13) Kentucky 35
Utah 35 2nd Half 9:00
Arizona 51
Ohio State 59 2nd Half 11:50
Nebraska 46
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: Which Twins player are you most interested in during spring training?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close