Twins: Can Francisco Liriano Return to Pre-injury Form?

John LewisSenior Writer IMarch 9, 2008

For those of you who don't remember, in 2006, the Minnesota Twins had the best one-two combination in the league in pitchers Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano.

Francisco Liriano was a big left hander with serious movement on his pitches. As a rookie, Liriano started 16 games, going 12-3 with a 2.77 earned run average. He had 233.3 innings pitched with 245 strikeouts.

Fast forward to 2008. Santana is a New York Met and Liriano is almost fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.

"At first when I started playing catch, it hurt so bad I said, 'I'm done playing baseball,'" Liriano said at the Twins' spring training complex.

Now that the pain has subsided, Liriano made his spring debut Friday against the Boston Red Sox, going 1 2/3 innings, allowing two hits, no runs, and one strikeout. A successful return has the Twins thinking a return to the top of the division.

But before Liriano can pitch extensively this season, the coaching staff made a minor adjustment to the slider that was so deadly before. That adjustment was to make Liriano more balanced when he lands after a pitch.   

With Santana gone, now the expectations and the pressure are on the young shoulders of Liriano. 

It's easy to forget he has made only 20 major league starts, and that he's 13-5 with a 2.74 ERA in his career, striking out 177 and walking 39 in 144 2/3 innings pitched.