Liriano hit hard early in loss, goes to DL
Twins' pitching woes continue in opener vs. Rangers
ARLINGTON -- The hope of the Twins following Francisco Liriano's stellar outing against the Royals last week at the Metrodome was that it could kick-start a strong season finish for the left-hander.Instead, after suffering his worst outing of the year in Monday night's 8-5 loss to the Rangers, Liriano found himself as the latest Twins starter to be lost due to injury. Following a two-inning start in which he gave up seven runs to the Rangers, Liriano was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left arm fatigue. "We're not going to take any chances with him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after the game. "We'll give him a couple of weeks here and see where we go from there. He's very frustrated. He doesn't feel like he has anything left in the tank right now." The break for Liriano is perhaps as much mental as it is physical. As the losses kept piling up and his struggles continued over the recent weeks, Liriano had been searching to find his confidence and a way to get things turned around. But while trying to do that on the mound, Liriano also acknowledged that he's been battling fatigue in his arm, something he acknowledged could be due to the nearly 200 innings he threw last year after missing all of the 2007 season following Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. "It just feels dead," Liriano said of his arm. "It feels so tired that I can't feel my arm at all pitching, but it doesn't hurt at all. It felt tired like my last five starts, and every start just kept getting worse. "I didn't have anything tonight, not at all, not a fastball, nothing, just soft and missing." Liriano, who is 5-12 with a 5.80 ERA this season, had troubles from the very start. After Joe Mauer had given the Twins an early 1-0 lead, continuing his August hitting tear by belting his 23rd home run of the season with a two-out solo shot in the first inning, Liriano couldn't make it last -- not even for the half-inning. The left-hander faced eight batters in the bottom of the first, with the first five Rangers he faced in the inning reaching base as he gave up three runs. Things didn't get better in the second. Liriano loaded the bases with one out before Marlon Byrd's two-run single. David Murphy added another with his sac fly and Andruw Jones added an RBI single to give the Rangers a 7-2 lead. Over the two nnings, Liriano faced a total of 16 batters, allowing seven hits and walking two while also hitting a batter with the bases loaded to score a run. "Frankie was just up in the zone and they were whacking it," Gardenhire said. "He couldn't stop it. Balls were flying all over the place. He just didn't have the life on his pitches he needed."
For the Twins, Monday's loss was their 12th in the past 16 games and dropped the third-place Twins to 6 1/2 games behind the American League Central-leading Tigers, who were idle Monday. And many of the Twins' recent losses can be blamed on the short outings from the starting pitchers, like the one Liriano had against the Rangers.In addition to creating early deficits for the club to work out of, it's also led to an increased workload for the bullpen. One day after Nick Blackburn lasted just 2 1/3 innings, the relief corps was forced to pitch another six innings following Liriano's abbreviated start. Bobby Keppel pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings and Jose Mijares added another 1 1/3 frames, allowing the Twins to try to make a comeback. Despite being without Justin Morneau after the third inning as the first baseman left the game with dizziness, Minnesota managed three runs in the sixth to pull within two.
The sixth inning began with a leadoff double from Mauer, who went 3-for-5 to raise his AL-leading batting average to .380. Delmon Young drew a two-out bases-loaded walk off right-hander Darren O'Day later in the sixth, and Nick Punto added a two-run single to make it 7-5.But in the end, the Twins just couldn't overcome the huge hole that Lirano had put them in. Although it was yet another day of watching his bullpen get taxed, Gardenhire said that he decided to take Liriano out of the contest after the second inning in an effort to protect the starter. While the club was hoping the lefty could help its postseason hopes if he got things turned around, the feeling is that rest is what's best for the lefty right now. "He's our present," Gardenhire said, "but he's also our future, too."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.