While there were mixed reviews for his up-and-down start against the Red Sox on Wednesday, management feels he's moving in the right direction.
Francisco Liriano was tagged in his second start of the spring, lasting 2+ innings and notching one strikeout on a pitch count. Only 53% of his pitches were for strikes, although initial trepidation on the mound gave way to growing confidence as each throw was made without any signs of trouble. Both manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson agreed they were happy to watch Liriano "let loose" as the game progressed.
Gardenhire wasn't concerned so much about results as about Cisco's progress:
Anderson, on the other hand, was excited to see his pitcher push himself. He knows it's important for Liriano to pace himself in the recovery and conditioning process, but he also knows it's important that the arm gets tested at this point in the spring:
Reports from Wednesday's start do say that the slider did make more of an appearance, and that on a couple of occasions it did break as hard as ever. This doesn't mean that Liriano's been given the freedom to throw his devastating breaking ball at his leisure, but it is good to know that it should still be a plus pitch once all systems are Go and he's been deemed to be in game shape.
As Liriano's recovery process wraps up and he continues to move through his conditioning phase, he'll continue to gain confidence and he'll be able to "let loose" earlier and earlier in each game. A decision on whether or not he'll be able to contribute from opening day with the Twins (whether that be in a starting or relief role) likely won't be reached until the 24th hour, although Charlie Walters seems to think he won't be ready:
But he's not throwing 95 mph as he once did, and it will be a surprise if the Twins' left-hander is ready to contribute when the regular season begins in 2 1/2 weeks.
Two words: No comment.