Early in the 2008 season, the Minnesota Twins have already seen a couple changes in their pitching deportment, along with some bumps and bruises.
Francisco Liriano's return to the bigs was a highly anticipated one to most Twins fans. Seeing him almost return to his rookie form of 2006 so quickly placed high hopes on the former Rookie-of-the-Year front-runner.
Liriano's inability to throw the ball over the plate in Spring delayed his return a little longer.
However, Liriano caught a break when teammate Kevin Slowey was placed on the DL, opening up a spot in the rotation sooner than expected. Finally Liriano made his long awaited return, his first start since 2006, but he could not live up to his expectations.
Many Twins fans, myself included, and I think Francisco himself are putting too much pressure on the youngster. We need to cut him some slack, seeing that he is throwing real games for the first time in 18 months.
It will take time for him to find command of the ball again, but he is further along than many expected, reaching 94-95 on the gun already. He will make his way back to the top.
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Before getting sidelined with the flu, Scott Baker was asked to take on the role as the opening day starter which essentially qualifies him as the ace of the staff.
So far, it looks like he would have lived up to the role. Baker and Livan Hernandez have thrown up similar numbers this season. But aside from Hernandez having one more win than Baker, Baker has been a more dominant allowing fewer hits and striking out more.
Livan wants Minnesota to be his last stop before he retires, and when he does leave, look for Baker to be the next Brad Radke. He's a poised, not overpowering pitcher, but great at changing speeds, and can strike out someone when he needs to.
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Despite the 1-1 record, the best pitcher in the rotation so far has been Nick Blackburn. His record should be on par with Livan if he would have gotten the run support.
Blackburn too is a Brad Radke type. He makes batters put the ball in play, and relys on his defense to do their job. Hes given up 28 hits so far, one less than Hernandez, but will get the ground ball double-play. This is why he has given up the fewest runs out of the starters that have started four games.
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Boof Bonser has had a couple rough outings, but he on his way to achieving his goal of wanting to go deeper in ballgames. He was roughed up the last time around but he had pitched 6+ in the three previous.
He still needs to learn to keep the ball down, but losing that much weight would cause you to have to change your mechanics just a bit.
Boof definitely deserves to be applauded for his work ethic during the off season. Sure as hell I can't lose that much weight that quickly.
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Livan Hernandez has done anything, and everything that the Twins have asked him to do. He has been the veteran presence that the team was looking for. He has been the innings eater that they looked for after the departure of Silva and Santana.
He has been the ace that the Twins have asked for. What more could this guy do for the team? The answer is, to lead the Twins to the post-season.