Twins General Manager Bill Smith was asked about the latest status concerning lefthander Francisco Liriano, who is pitching well for Class AAA Rochester. Liriano's agent, Greg Genske, has asked Major League Baseball to investigate the situation because he believes the club is trying to prevent the lefthander from gaining service time that would enable him to qualify for arbitration earlier.
"He has made great progress down in Rochester, and we are excited about the progress," Smith said of Liriano, the 2006 All-Star as a rookie who underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery that year and missed all of 2007. "We think he is about ready to pitch up here. If we were worried about service time we would have never brought him up in April.
"It's an agent trying to do his job. Liriano is doing fine, and he will be a big contributor to this club in the future."
Liriano was not good with the Twins in three April starts: 0-3 with a 11.32 ERA. But he hasn't lost in the minors since May 15 and is now 8-2 with a 3.34 ERA at Rochester.
"His last four starts have been outstanding. The first 10 or 11 starts, he got a little better each time," Smith said. "Then he had two not as good. The last four, he has been outstanding, exactly what we hoped he would do. He's starting to dominate Triple-A."
Asked if he believed Liriano is as good now as he was before his surgery, Smith said: "I don't think he is as good right now as he was beforehand. He is doing well in Triple-A. We won't know until we get him back up here.
"I hope our starters here keep throwing those quality starts, and we keep winning games. Our only goal here is to keep winning games."
As for the grievance filed by Genske, Smith said he doesn't believe anything will come of it.
"They are just asking questions. The union is just doing their preliminary investigation," he said. "We are very confident in the end that they will find everything is fine and we'll move on."
Had Smith ever heard of this before?
"It's come up before, but not very often. Most of the time the agents let the clubs run the clubs," he said. "We'll move on. It's not a big deal. I'm really confident we have done everything right. I'm excited Liriano is making such good progress."
With no apparent room for him in the Twins rotation, some have suggested Liriano return to the majors as a reliever. But Smith said: "His best role is as a starter. That doesn't mean he could not pitch in the bullpen, but we think his best role is as a starter. So far, the starters are doing their job and the bullpen has done a very good job for us as well."
Still, Smith made it sound as if he believed Liriano would return before the end of the season. "I really don't have a timetable, whether it might be next week, it might be next month or it might be Opening Day," Smith said. "I think he's going to be up and have a chance to contribute to this club and hopefully help get us into the playoffs.
"The No. 1 objective in this whole thing is to get him healthy for the rest of his career and not take any shortcuts to give him any short-term gain. We are looking for the long-term career. We'll bring him back one more time and he'll have a great career for the Twins."
The big problem is who would Liriano replace, the way the major league starters are pitching. I'm sure the Twins are going to decide when it's the right time to bring Liriano up. The agent is just trying to keep his client happy.
The Twins' Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan each earned a $25,000 bonus for making the American League All-Star team. ... Mauer got a chance to chat with Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, with the picture of the two appearing on the front page of the sports section of USA Today. "It was a cool moment, I will never forget it," Mauer said of meeting Berra. As for any nerves for starting the All-Star Game, Mauer said: "I wasn't really nervous at all. Actually the first inning is just usually the warm-up pitch, and then I'm fine. But, after that first inning, especially, it felt just like another game." ... Mauer bought 14 tickets for his family at $600 each and had a total of some 20-25 fans at the game. "I know some family came out and they were kind of on their own. So, Minnesota was well-represented for sure," he said.
Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer, on the disabled list for the second time this season, will have a CT scan today to find out what is wrong with his finger. Cuddyer has been on the DL since June 28. "I can't believe there isn't more healing," Cuddyer said. "That's the thing that is the most frustrating. There is no timetable, and nobody knows how long it's going to take to heal. It kind of ached for two weeks and then I took a swing against Milwaukee that sent it over the edge. The only thing that is keeping me sane is that we are winning."
Smith said righthander Pat Neshek is making good progress in his rehabilitation from an elbow injury, and that he is expected to begin a throwing program in Fort Myers, Fla., in early August. "He has not done any throwing yet, so we are looking forward to getting him down there," Smith said. "I don't know that there is any timetable on him coming back. We are planning on Opening Day of next year. Anything before that would be a bonus."
Injured switch-hitting Twins infielder Matt Tolbert is swinging the bat from sides and hitting off a tee, and the swelling in his hand has gone down.
The Twins have signed 14 of their top 15 draft choices by spending more money that they ever have before. They are still trying to sign three more picks.
Safety Tyrell Johnson, the Vikings' second-round draft choice, would be paid a signing bonus of $2.04 million and a four-year contract calling for $3.7 million if he was paid the same as the second-round pick from last year, receiver Sidney Rice.
Former Gophers football coach Glen Mason is pretty much again set to work for the Big Ten Network as a color commentator, but he will continue to work fulltime for Marquette Asset Management. ... In a broadcast Saturday, ESPN picked the Gophers to again finish 11th in the Big Ten this season.
According to GopherIllustrated.com, Hopkins basketball standout Mike Broghammer received scholarship offers from Notre Dame, Penn State and Santa Clara.