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Twins open biggest series of the season with best starter in Rochester

Posted at 3:08 PM on July 28, 2008 by Steve Rudolph (12 Comments)

In all likelihood, the Twins postseason hopes hinge on the outcome of this four-game series with the White Sox. And I, for one, would rather have had Francisco Liriano starting against Mark Buehrle tonight than Kevin Slowey.

Instead Liriano started for Rochester on Sunday earning his 10th win of the season. According to reports, Liriano wasn't as dominant as he had been in past outings, but he still managed to strike out 9 in six innings. His only real mistake was the three-run shot he gave up in the sixth inning with two outs. (In his previous 10 starts Liriano had gone 9-0 with a 2.37 ERA so I'll cut him some slack.)

It's possible Liriano may not be back to where he was before his injury, but he appears close and there's no one on the Twins staff, save Scott Baker, who has the potential to shut down the opposition the way Liriano can.

So what if there's no obvious candidate for demotion. Liriano has the ability to give this team a lift when it appears unlikely the front office will do so through a trade.

He's also pitched in big games before, something the young arms on the staff have not -- a fact that was embarrassingly on display in New York last week. If the Twins wait any longer to be convinced that Liriano is ready to contribute, they'll likely have lost the chance for him to help them.

Comments (12)

Slowey has been fantastic this year. There's no reason to throw him under the bus with Livan still around (obvious candidate for DFA if they can't trade him for nothing). Perkins and Blackburn should go before Slowey, but they've even been solid.

Posted by Ryan | July 28, 2008 8:52 PM

I hate to break it to you but Liriano is NOT the Twins' best starter right now. Scott Baker is Twins' best pitcher followed closely Nick Blackburn. Kevin Slowey now has 2 complete game shutouts and Glen Perkins has DOMINATED the Tigers. We all know Liriano is good but he has not earned his starting job yet. All four of the Twins' young pitchers have EARNED their spot. Just because somebody does something in AAA does not mean an automatic spot in the rotation. Liriano will have to earn that.

Posted by gatty790 | July 29, 2008 12:49 AM

As a side note, if AAA numbers make you a great starter, statistically then I would chose Kevin Slowey as the better pitcher. His numbers were better in '07 than Liriano's are right now.

Kevin's numbers in 20 GS
10-5, 1.89 ERA, 5 CG, 107 SO, 18 BB

Liriano's numbers in 18 GS
9-2, 3.13 ERA, 0 CG, 104 SO, 30 BB

Just going by AAA statistics I would choose Kevin Slowey over Liriano.

Posted by gatty790 | July 29, 2008 12:59 AM

"And I, for one, would rather have had Francisco Liriano starting against Mark Buehrle tonight than Kevin Slowey."

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha. ha.

Posted by Odie | July 29, 2008 6:43 AM

I never saw that performance coming from Slowey. Not after the way he had pitched the last three outings (7.50 ERA). And not after the White Sox sent him to the showers after three in their last meeting.

That said, what happened to Bud Grant's old adage that a player doesn't lose their spot due to injury? Liriano's major league numbers in 2006 were better than anything the current rotation has posted. Liriano's fastball is hitting in the 93-95 mph range again and his throwing the slider.

He's already proved that he's a Big Leaguer and shouldn't be left in the minors particularly when there are pitchers on the 25-man roster (Bonser and Bass) who don't belong here.

Posted by Steve Rudolph | July 29, 2008 2:41 PM

What does an old NFL coach have to do with the Twins in 2008? Long before Bud Grant there was Wally Pipp, anyway.

Saying Liriano should be in the majors is very different than saying he should have Slowey's rotation spot. Slowey is a very good pitcher. I think he's already better than Radke, who people always use as the first comparison.

There's nothing wrong with keeping Liriano down until the dust settles after the trade deadline. Don't get your undies in a bunch yet.

Posted by Ryan | July 29, 2008 5:04 PM

I know Liriano's 2006 numbers were better than any of the current pitchers, but his 2008 numbers in the Majors are worse than any of the pitchers. I don't care how good his AAA numbers are, he has to earn his way back into the rotation. When the Twins call up Liriano and release Brian Bass, he should get 1 or 2 starts to see if he's got it. If not, then he is on to the eight inning (Oh wait, that's were LaTroy is going to be...).

Posted by gatty790 | July 29, 2008 6:49 PM

I'm of the opinion that once an established major league player has shown that they are healthy and able to help their team they should be recalled from their rehab assignment. It sends the wrong message to keep a player in the minor leagues after they have done everything the organization has asked. If that means using Liriano as a reliever, so be it. Keeping him in Rochester is not helping the club and there are only so many innings left to be pitched this season.

As for Wally Pipp, the Yankees traded him after see what Gehrig could do and he played three more productive seasons. The trade deadline is almost here. Maybe if the Twins think they have a Lou Gehrig on their roster they should trade Liriano for Hank Blaylock and some prospects.

Posted by Steve Rudolph | July 30, 2008 8:31 AM

Blalock is on the DL again. What is this, the fourth stint this year? I'd love to see Dunn since we have such an OBP and SLG problem. We don't have a position for him though. What are we going to do at 2B now though? Nick Punto? Yikes.

I agree that Liriano should be up. I disagree that he should be in the bullpen. He's already been through that. It's a great idea to get a young pitcher acclimated to the majors with a half season or so in long relief. It's a terrible idea to yank them all around between starting and relieving. What are they going to do when its' time to convert him to a starter again? Send him down again to stretch out his arm? He's already stretched out, why waste all that time? It's just a matter of days, there's no reason to rush anything, especially with the trade deadline tomorrow.

I'd rather see the Twins DFA Livan than Brian Bass. I also think they should stop using Bass in high leverage situations.

Posted by Ryan | July 30, 2008 1:46 PM

It was nice of Livan to open a spot in the rotation for Liriano.

Posted by Steve Rudolph | July 31, 2008 3:37 PM

No, Liriano has no business being in the bullpen. However, there's word that he's coming back to the rotation. I'm all for it unless, as Steve says, it comes at anyone's expense except Livan.

But also, as Ryan says, Bass has no business being in high leverage situation either.

Posted by Erik | July 31, 2008 11:06 PM

I can't say it's a big surprise that they called Liriano up the day after the trade deadline, basically at the exact moment that they couldn't trade Livan and Monroe. They DFA'd them instead. Shocker.

Posted by Ryan | August 1, 2008 7:17 PM

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