The Twins' desperate pursuit of starting pitching this offseason might lead them to a familiar face: Francisco Liriano, the former Twin who's fresh off a two-month stint with the Chicago White Sox.
The Twins have had conversations with Liriano's representatives, according to a source with knowledge of the talks, and the sides are expected to meet next week at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville during baseball's annual winter meetings.
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan, when asked on Tuesday about their interest in Liriano, said: "I haven't spoken on the record about anyone we are interested in. Everyone knows we are looking for starting pitching."
Liriano, 29, had one of his worst years in the majors last season, going 3-10 with a 5.31 ERA with the Twins before being dealt to the White Sox on July 28.
Twins fans know Liriano well. He has the stuff to dominate but hasn't had an ERA under 5.09 for the past two seasons. The Twins would not consider bringing him back unless they felt he had a chance to turn back to clock to 2010, when he went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA. Or better yet, a return to his 2006 form, when he was 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and made the AL All-Star team.
When he's on, Liriano has been one of the few Twins pitchers who could make hitters swing and miss, and resembled more than a back-of-the-rotation starter.
The Twins also have been linked recently to free-agent righthander Brett Myers, who is interested in returning to starting after working out of the bullpen for the Astros and White Sox last season. The Twins appear willing to trade center fielder Denard Span for the best starting pitcher they can get. Liriano's agent, Greg Genske, also represents free-agent righthander Joe Saunders, another pitcher the Twins might be interested in after he compiled a combined 9-13 record and a 4.07 ERA with the Diamondbacks and Orioles last season.
As of now, lefthander Scott Diamond is the only sure thing for the 2013 rotation. Righthander Kyle Gibson, the Twins' top pitching prospect, also could be considered, but it's unknown how he will be used in his first full season since Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2011.
Liriano struggled from the start of last season and was relegated to bullpen duty for about two weeks in May. He rejoined the rotation on May 30 and posted a 2.84 ERA over a 10-start stretch before getting rocked for seven earned runs in a 2 2/3-inning stint against the White Sox on July 23. Five days later, he was a member of the White Sox after being traded for infielder Eduardo Escobar and pitcher Pedro Hernandez. Liriano struggled with the White Sox, too, going 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA during a failed pennant chase.
He made $5.5 million last season. How much will it cost the Twins for Franchise, the Sequel?
That will be one of the Twins' story lines as the baseball world descends on the Music City next week.