Souhan: Fearing end of career, Liriano now at height of it

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 4, 2013 - 11:57 AM

The former Twin’s secret has been getting ahead in the count and location, location, location.

hide

This year, Francisco Liriano finally has realized the potential he flashed in his rookie season with the Twins.

Photo: GENE J. PUSKAR • Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

Francisco Liriano hasn’t reprised 2006, hasn’t rediscovered the 92-mph slider that could clip the outside corner before clipping a righthanded hitter’s big toe. In a way, he’s become even more impressive in 2013 than he was as a carefree Twins rookie with unhittable stuff.

Wednesday night at Miller Park, Liriano will take the mound as the most surprising player on baseball’s most surprising team, eight months after fearing that his once-meteoric and more often puzzling career had ended.

“Yeah, I did worry,” he said. “I thought nobody was going to sign me, because that happened the night before I was going to get my physical done.”

Before Christmas, Liriano planned to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The lefthander says he was horsing around with his kids, banging into a door to scare them at his home in the Dominican Republic, when he hurt his right arm.

When he discovered his arm was broken, he worried that negotiations were dead. The Pirates, he said, called four days later and restructured the contract, lessening the guaranteed money, and Liriano gratefully signed.

Eight months later, Liriano is the ace of the Pirates and of the unofficial All-Star team of former Twins scattered around the big leagues. He’s bringing a record of 15-6 and an ERA of 2.57 into the latest start of a season that would make him a Cy Young Award contender if he didn’t pitch in the same league as Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw.

“We’re having a blast right now,” Liriano said.

Liriano might be the key to what will be the Pirates’ first winning season since 1992, and the Pirates take obvious pride in having coaxed him toward the form that made him the most dominant pitcher in the majors for three months in 2006.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said a mechanical adjustment smoothed out Liriano’s delivery, and that learning to pitch ahead in the count has made his slider and changeup devastating.

Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage went into more detail. He’s encouraged Liriano to “stay on his back side longer,” meaning keep his weight on his left foot longer, to avoid rushing his delivery. Tuesday in the Pirates clubhouse, Searage mimicked Liriano’s delivery, saying the pitcher had to learn to pull his hands toward the left side of his chest, “Toward the big ‘P’ on the jersey,” Searage said. “This way he’s nice and smooth on his stride out to home plate, and he can do whatever he wants with the ball.”

Of course, Liriano heard similar advice from the Twins and White Sox. He admits the broken arm gave him more time to think about pitching. He missed the first month of the season but used the down time to revamp his deliver and channel his desperation.

“I was frustrated, being home, being hurt again,” he said. “I wasn’t doing much at all. I couldn’t do much, with my broken arm. But everything happens for a reason. You’ve got to thank God for everything that happens in your life, and move forward and find a way to get better.”

“The man made a commitment to improving himself, an honest self-evaluation over the winter,” Hurdle said. “Then he got handed some more adversity with the injury, which gave him more time to prepare.”

Why couldn’t he pitch this well with the Twins?

“To be honest, in 2011, I was hurting,” Liriano said. “My shoulder was bothering me the whole year. Last year [with the Twins and White Sox], I was walking guys, not throwing strikes, trying to do too much.”

And now? “I think most of it is location,” he said. “I’m throwing strikes, getting ahead.”

With the Twins in recent years, Liriano often pitched well for four or five innings, but when he encountered trouble, he would overthrow, lose his balance and compound his woes.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Cleveland 11/6/14 7:25 PM
Cincinnati
Memphis 46 3rd Qtr 10:35
Indiana 55
Cleveland 19 1st Qtr 3:59
Chicago 22
Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
Portland 9:00 PM
Sacramento
San Antonio 9:00 PM
Phoenix
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Toronto 2 2nd Prd 7:47
Columbus 0
Los Angeles 0 1st Prd 1:52
Detroit 4
Anaheim 7:30 PM
Dallas
Nashville 8:00 PM
Calgary
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 0 1st Qtr 7:59
Tulane 0
Tulsa 0 1st Qtr 1:14
Memphis 0
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Memphis 11/7/14 6:30 PM
Temple
Utah State 11/7/14 7:00 PM
Wyoming
(12) Baylor 11/8/14 2:00 AM
(19) Oklahoma
(11) Kansas State 11/8/14 2:00 AM
(10) TCU
Hamilton 7 8:08
Ottawa 15
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan
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: Should the Twins contact Joe Maddon about their managing job?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close