Wednesday, March 2, 2011

BD Spring Training Report: Twins “Liri” To Deal Francisco | Baseball Digest

BD Spring Training Report: Twins “Liri” To Deal Francisco | Baseball Digest

Trade rumors concerning Minnesota Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano began at the trade deadline last season, continued throughout the hot stove season, and are still being bandied about during spring training. The latest chatter has the New York Yankees inquiring about the left-handed starter with big time potential and a surgically repaired elbow.

First reported by USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale on Jim Bowden’s radio show, Brian Cashman reportedly contacted Twins’ GM Bill Smith about Liriano’s availability. Later reports had a rumored Yankees offer of pitching prospect Ivan Nova and light hitting/good glove infielder Ramiro Pena. Needless to say, rumored or real, the Twins would not ship Liriano for that minor of a package.

Both teams should be wary of how they proceed. Liriano underwent Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss all of 2007 and limited him to 76 innings in 2008. Liriano struggled mightily in 2009 as he tried to regain his form- he pitched to a nearly 6 ERA and allowed 21 home runs. Last season, Liriano finally started to look like the 2006 version of himself. He averaged over nine strikeouts per nine innings, recorded a 3.62 ERA, and allowed less than a hit per inning.

But there are some details that should be pointed out. First, Liriano threw a career-high 191-2/3 innings (nearly 55 innings more than his prior top innings count) and seemed to wear out in September. His post-season performance against the Yankees was nothing to write home about either (5.2 IP 4 ER 6 H 3 BB 7 K). And his regular season ERA was more than a full point higher on the road than in his spacious home ballpark (Target Field).

Liriano complained of shoulder soreness and a tired arm shortly after reporting to spring training a few weeks ago and his initial bullpen sessions were cancelled. Manager Ron Gardenhire downplayed it as tendinitis, but the Twins have to be concerned about their pitcher with the nastiest selection of pitches. Part of the reason for the early spring issues was that Liriano did not consistently do his off-season strengthening exercises. As Scott Miller of CBS Sports pointed out, that showed a lack of maturity.

There is talk that Minnesota will wait until the July trade deadline gets closer to have a better gauge of the market (Minnesota has Liriano under control for another season, so they may not be in a rush to do anything as well), but if the Twins do move Liriano, they are better off moving him sooner rather than later. Shoulder injuries and any necessary surgeries are much trickier and take longer to come back from than elbow injuries. Liriano’s shoulder may not be a serious issue at all, but buyers should beware of what they may be purchasing/giving up prospects for in return for the 27-yr old.

The Washington Nationals should finally get a look at Chien-Ming Wang on a mound. The Taiwanese hero and two-time 19 game winner with the New York Yankees is scheduled to pitch in a minor league intrasquad game on Friday. Not so good news for his teammate Cla Meredith who will have to undergo Tommy John surgery today.

Twins beat writer Joe Christensen tweeted this morning that Justin Morneau is making progress in his recovery from concussion symptoms, but was still not cleared by doctors on Tuesday to participate in any exhibition games.

Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett who took a baseball to the head and suffered a mild concussion on Monday has been cleared to resume baseball activities.

Scott Boras has one less big name client- Mark Teixeira. There was no reason given for the dismissal.

Indians GM Chris Antonetti told the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes that he does not expect outfielder Grady Sizemore to be ready for opening day (April 1). “It’s still a possibility,” said Antonetti. “But I’d say it’s less likely than more likely that he’ll be ready for the start of the season. We’re hopeful it will still be near the start of the season. Whether that’s a few days or a few weeks, we just don’t know yet.”

Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos assured fans that GM Andy MacPhail is “…not going anywhere.” MacPhail’s contract expires at the end of the 2011 season. “Andy and Buck [Showalter] are a great combination,” Angelos told the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck.

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