What to do with Francisco Liriano

Before Wednesday’s game I was optimistic…oh how 24 hours can change things. After two beatings in a row I am less than optimistic now. Francisco Liriano made the start last night and I was really looking forward to seeing how he would progress following a decent start last week. The wheels came off pretty much from the get go for Liriano. He allowed four runs in the first inning alone. I honestly didn’t think he had a chance of making it into the second inning, but somehow he got three outs and came back out to pitch the second. I wonder if there wasn’t a double header on Thursday if Gardy would have yanked him? Probably not, but after that inning it would have been warranted. 

Liriano just was not locating his fastball at all and he couldn’t keep the ball down and the Rays were making him pay for it. The only pitch he got beat on really was the pitch BJ Upton hit for a double. The ball was down and Upton just went down and got it, which to me was a nice piece of hitting. The other thing that was really bothering me was that he just kept falling behind in counts. He was down 1-0 or 2-0 to pretty much every hitter he faced. And he just seemed timid, nibbling at the corners and not really attacking the strike zone. And this is where I have my problems. Because with Liriano it has never been about “stuff.” It has always been about mental fortitude. What he has between the ears is the biggest problem to me. The stuff has always been there and it still is, as evidenced by the wicked two-seamer he struck Felipe Lopez out on, the ball started in the zone and dove about a foot into the left-handed batter’s box. I just can’t put my finger on what is wrong with him. I think it has to me mental. He is one of those guys who can really go off the tracks mentally and let it ruin him. His confidence was absolutely gone in 2009 and we saw how that went. Then in 2010 he had regained his confidence and he was great. I am afraid that he is losing his confidence again and taking the entire 2011 Twins’ season with him.

I am officially off the making-excuses-for-Francisco Liriano bangwagon. He’s had enough starts where it is to the point where you can’t keep saying, give him one more outing and see how he does. Last season he only walked 58 batters in 191 innings, this season he has walked 18 in just 23 innings. His control is nowhere to be found and that scares me. I am starting to see the 2009 version of Liriano out there and it is not a good thing. It makes me wonder what exactly the Twins can do with him at this point.

Can they realistically think about sending him to Rochester to work on his form? And maybe regain some confidence? I think they should start thinking about it, hard, because he has basically become batting practice out there.

Can they put him in the bullpen? I think the minors is the better option there. He would just go to waste in the ‘pen, I think he really needs to keep starting, but I am at the point where I don’t know if he can keep doing it at the Major League level.

It’s only been five starts, so maybe I am getting ahead of myself? But, I already said I can’t keep saying “let him have one more start.” I just don’t know if that is the best thing the Twins can do. Kevin Slowey apparently threw close to 50 pitches Wednesday and felt good. He is supposed to catch up the Twins when they hit the road after the Rays’ series. I wonder if there is any chance he could make his way back into the rotation? He was throwing the ball very well before he got hurt and I personally think he should be the first guy in line when a rotation spot opens. Another option that is an extreme longshot would be to stretch Glen Perkins out and let him have another crack at the rotation. I doubt that will happen as he has been about the only reliable arm in the ‘pen so far. The final idea I have would be to call up Kyle Gibson from Rochester. I know it’s about a month too early, so it just won’t happen, but he is coming off a great outing and his numbers are pretty good so far. Again, he won’t be called upon until June no matter what happens, so maybe the Twins will stick with Liriano for another four starts? Maybe by then Frankie will have figured things out and Nick Blackburn can get the boot…after Thursday’s performance I’d be okay with it.

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