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Waiting Is the Hardest Part

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He feels great.  The fastball reaches 95, with four weeks to ramp up to Opening Day.  Bullpen sessions have looked "free and easy".

It's been 16 months and counting since the surgery, and the days we've been waiting for are approaching.  Speculation on whether or not Liriano would change his throwing motion has been put to rest, evidenced over the last few weeks.  In addition to his bullpen session in Florida on Wednesday morning, Liriano's form in the Dominican Republic mirrored what we're all used to.  Opposing hitters and fans alike have an image frozen in their minds:  glove arm crooked, chest out, eyes blazing and that left arm cocked at a seemingly inhuman position.

Blasting sliders and blistering 97 mph fastballs are still a ways off.  Rick Anderson has made it public that he's hoping Liriano can turn his slider into more of an "out pitch" in order to reduce stress on the arm.  While Kevin Slowey can attest to the need for an out pitch, this would render Francisco a straight fastball-changeup hurler.  With two plus pitches at all times in the fastball/slider combinations, it wasn't necessary that the changeup be on the same quality level.  Now, if Liriano indeed would be taking Anderson's philosophy into the season, the off-speed pitch would need some work.

That assumption is based soley off scouting reports.  Additionally, our wait isn't over.  Injury and surgery and rehabilitation are mostly in the rear view mirror, but it's still going to be awhile before we know what kind of pitcher Liriano will be.  This entire season will be less of an indicator of his eventual long-term prognosis than the next two to four years.

Still, it's good to know he's back on the mound.  His role out of spring training is still to be determined, but this much is a guarantee:  we'll see Liriano in a Twins uniform at some point during the summer of 2008.

Projections

System      W   L   G  GS   IP      H  BB   SO  WHIP   ERA
ZiPS       13   7  33  25  166.0  148  46  178  1.17  3.42
PECOTA      9   7  23  23  144.7  125  52  151  1.22  3.25
CHONE       -   -   -   -   83.0   77  27   87  1.25  3.58
Bill James 12   5  26  26  152.0  121  45  189  1.09  2.84
Marcel      4   2   -   -   57.0   50  18   58  1.19  3.47