Francisco Liriano allowed nine home runs last year in 191 2/3 innings, but last Thursday at Yankee Stadium, he pitched like he was worried the game might turn into Home Run Derby.

The Yankees had been clobbering the ball, of course, and hit two balls to the warning track in the first three innings. But the wind was blowing in, and the ball wasn't carrying very well, at all. Liriano still threw 97 pitches and was done after five innings.

Manager Ron Gardenhire thought Liriano was too slider-happy on a day when the lefthander's two-seam fastball could have generated more ground ball outs.

Well today, after poor starts in Toronto and New York, Liriano finally gets to throw in the pitcher-friendly confines of Target Field, as the Twins wrap up this homestand against Kansas City. The winds are out of the north today, so the flags above left field are flapping toward home plate. There should be nothing tentative about his approach.

He insists his arm feels great, and there was more life on his fastball last week, on that chilly day in New York. So today should offer a true gauge for where he’s at.

The hitters could do Liriano a favor by scoring early. They haven’t scored a run before the third inning all season, but this would be a good day to snap that streak, facing Royals righthander Kyle Davies.

It’ll be interesting to see which bullpen pitchers are available for the Twins after Tuesday night’s 10-inning victory. Matt Capps needed just 19 pitches to record five outs, and Joe Nathan threw 15 pitches in his 1-2-3 inning. Nathan was ready to pitch last Saturday after closing Friday’s home opener, so we’ll see if the same holds true today.

Update: Matt Tolbert is getting the start at shortstop today, with Alexi Casilla on the bench.

This morning, Gardenhire was asked about Luke Hughes, and he mentioned that he wishes Hughes were more familiar with shortstop. Gardenhire said he wouldn’t be afraid to give Hughes some spot duty at shortstop

“if [Casilla] continues to wave at the ball like he’s been doing. I need him to swing, and I told him last night, ‘Swing the bat son.’ So hopefully he’ll get going.”

Casilla is batting .143, but it’s his overall demeanor that seems to concern Gardenhire.

“Right now, he looks tentative, and that’s not what we saw in spring training,” Gardenhire said. “He was a guy all over the field. That’s what we hope to get back to. It’s in there, we know it’s in there, we’ve just gotta get it out.”

ROYALS (6-4)

1. Chris Getz, 2B
2. Melky Cabrera, CF
3. Alex Gordon, LF
4. Billy Butler, 1B
5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
6. Wilson Betemit, DH
7. Mike Aviles, 3B
8. Matt Treanor, C
9. Alcides Escobar, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Kyle Davies (1-0, 6.75 ERA)

TWINS (4-6)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Matt Tolbert, SS
3. Jason Kubel, RF
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Delmon Young, LF
6. Jim Thome, DH
7. Michael Cuddyer, 2B
8. Danny Valencia, 3B
9. Drew Butera, C

Starting pitcher: LH Francisco Liriano (0-2, 7.71 ERA)

Target Field. First pitch: 12:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network

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