Minnesota Twins

Francisco Liriano Making Strides In Winter Ball

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 07:  Francisco Liriano #47 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the New York Yankees in Game One of the ALDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 7, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIJanuary 5, 2010
Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire got some very encouraging news about one of his pitchers yesterday.

Francisco Liriano is reportedly throwing pellets in winter ball.

“I just got a report that he’s throwing the living fire out of the ball down in the Dominican (Republic),” the Twins manager said through the St. Paul Pioneer Press . “He threw eight innings the other day, and his fastball was 92 to 94 (mph) and his slider was filthy. That’s a really good thing, because he can be the bonus if we can get him on track.”

Not only can Liriano be a bonus to have, but he could potentially be the ace the Twins need. I am a firm believer that unless you have a lineup that can just bludgeon teams night after night (the Big Red Machine of the 1970’s comes to mind), you need an ace to win a World Series.

Currently, the Twins have a pitching staff comprised of No. 3 starters. Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, and Kevin Slowey are nice pitchers to have on a staff, but none of them would be considered a No. 1 starter.

No. 3 starters get a team through the regular season, but don’t get a team to a World Series. That is why Liriano is so important to the Twins taking the next step in 2010.

Liriano can be that ace. In 2006, Liriano was 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and looked like the second coming of Johan Santana. So the potential is there.

However, Liriano had Tommy John surgery in 2006 and hasn’t been the same since.

Liriano is one of the few pitchers who has regressed since the surgery. Most pitchers who have the surgery either come back stronger or work themselves back within two years.

For Liriano, its been almost three years.

Last year, I had Liriano as the “key” to the Twins’ season . Liriano went 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA, so he wasn’t as important to the Twins as I thought he would be. But I also said that with him, they would be a serious contender for the AL Pennant, which they weren’t.

Even without Liriano, I think Twins will go into the 2010 season as the favorites in the American League Central. But if Liriano is healthy and pitching like we know he can, the Twins could go from first-round fodder to a legit pennant contender.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg


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