Francisco Liriano Might Be Down To Last Start

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 13: Francisco Liriano #47 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning of their game on April 13, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Tom Pellisero (via

Francisco Liriano may only have one more start to get on track.

Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told 1500 ESPN on Friday the team is stretching out Kevin Slowey on his rehabilitation assignment and could swap him into Liriano's spot in the rotation if the left-hander struggles again in his next outing.

"We've been talking about our options with him, and the first option is trying to get him right and relaxed out there," Gardenhire said of Liriano, who is 1-4 with a 9.13 earned-run average, 18 walks and 18 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings over five starts this season.

When I see something like this, my first reaction is that the guy's probably hurt. I can't tell you how many dozens, perhaps hundreds of times over the years some pitcher has been pitching completely out of character, and it takes everyone a few weeks to figure out there's something physically wrong with him.

The walks are up, the strikeouts are down, the home runs are up ... If there's any saving grace, it's that we're talking about just 24 innings. But Liriano didn't have a 24-inning stretch anything like this last season.

Management hasn't seemed thrilled with Liriano for some time now. Maybe it all started last fall, when he couldn't hold that 3-0 lead against the Yankees in the Division Series. Early in spring training, management questioned Liriano's off-season conditioning. He didn't pitch poorly in camp, but he didn't pitch particularly well, either.

Now, this.

You can't blame everyone for worrying.

Consider ... Entering this season, the Twins' four marquee players were Liriano, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Joe Nathan.  Liriano has one win, Nathan has lost his job, Mauer and Morneau have combined to score six runs.

Maybe this just isn't the Twins' year.

For much more about the Minnesota Twins, please visit Twinkie Town.

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