Posted at 6:00 AM on April 25, 2008
by David Zingler
Former Twins phemon Francisco Liriano did his best Sidney Ponson imitation yesterday in Oakland, giving up 6 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks in 2/3 of an inning. He is now 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA and has allowed 15 hits and 13 walks in 10 1/3 innings.
Coming off major arm surgery, I expected Liriano to be rusty and struggle. I also knew that the bar was unreasonably high because of his out-of-this-world 2006 performance. But, I was thinking more like 1-2 with a 5.50 ERA and at least one start where he showed flashes of his old self.
With the Santana trade netting only one weak hitting outfielder on the major league roster this season, Liriano is probably the most important player in the Twins organization. While we may never see another pitcher in a Twins uniform that matches Santana's production, Liriano looked to have the talent to bring another Cy Young award to Minnesota.
There's still a chance that could happen, but there's also a chance that the elbow surgery and potential risk of a re-injury will prohibit Liriano from ever again snapping that nasty slider like he did two years ago.
Will Liriano be the next Santana or the new Mark Fidrych? Nobody knows, but the Twins immediate future hangs in the balance.
Lighten up. Liriano is struggling on his return from major surgery. So if the Twins are smart they'll send him to AAA or maybe even AA where he doesn't have to worry about hitters as much and can "find" his fastball and slider. Once he's dominating the International League again he can come up with the confidence he needs to pitch in the majors.
This stint was the Twins allowing Liriano to learn that he has to work on his pitching in the minors. Until he came up and got shelled he wasn't going to listen to the minor league coaches. Now he might.
It's funny that you mention Fidrych, because that's who I've been thinking ever since Liriano went down with the elbow injury. Not many other young pitchers have had the kind of profound, immediate impacts on their teams.
I wouldn't give up yet on Liriano. He's young, and clearly he has to figure out how to be more of a pitcher than a thrower. I was of the feeling that they should let him take his lumps at the major league level, but more games like yesterday might completely destroy his confidence.
Even though the results were the same between Fydrich and Liriano - young phenoms that accumulated wins thus garnering local and national attention at a young age (Fydrich 21, Liriano 22) - that is about where the similarity ends. In his breakout season, Fydrich had a strike out rate of 9% while Liriano had a strike out rate of 30%. Some would suggest that Fydrich was the recipiant of an extremely lucky season that complimented his crazy personality to project him to the national spotlight. Liriano was a genuinely filthy pitcher.
True. A better comparison might be Fernando Valenzuela, who went 13-7 in his first full season (1981) and had a 23% strike out rate. He also had 8 complete games.