© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
04/25/08 9:06 PM ET
Recovering Liriano sent to Triple-A
Lefty pitched poorly, needs more time to heal from surgery
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Francisco Liriano's comeback campaign from Tommy John elbow ligament reconstructive surgery has now shifted locations. The Twins made the move to option Liriano back to Triple-A Rochester on Friday, one day after expressing concerns about the pitcher's confidence level following three rough outings. Liriano went 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA in his three starts for the Twins, with the worst coming Thursday in Oakland. The left-hander lasted just two-thirds of an inning and gave up six runs to the A's while issuing three walks and not striking out a batter. And Liriano admitted on Friday that mentally, he's struggling to find his old form. "I'm thinking too much. I'm putting too much pressure on me," Liriano said just before leaving to catch a plane. "So I just want to relax my mind and not think too much. "I want to be like I was before, just go out and throw. Right now, I'm trying to make some perfect pitches. I don't know what I'm doing." Coming back from a 19-month layoff due to the surgery, Liriano clearly had problems finding any sort of command -- especially with his fastball. He told the coaching staff on Thursday that he wasn't confident throwing strikes. It showed as he issued 13 walks over 10 1/3 innings, allowing 15 hits and striking out just seven. The coaching staff at Rochester had warned the Twins that Liriano was not ready yet for a callup following one so-so start there earlier this month. But despite the poor results from Liriano, Gardenhire said that the club does not regret bringing the left-hander up the Majors. "He needed to learn exactly where he was at, too," Gardenhire said. "Now he understands what it's going to take for him to get back out on the mound and make it back to the Major Leagues. If he had been down floundering in the Minor Leagues, he would never have known. "He knows now that he really has to go down there and work. Maybe he can clear his head. But he's got work to do. He saw it himself that he couldn't get it done up here." Liriano didn't seem surprised by the decision, and actually appeared to be a bit relieved for the chance to go down and figure out what's been going wrong "I'm fine with it," Liriano said of the move. "I expected it. I need to keep working on my fastball because I'm over pitching." To take Liriano's spot, the Twins called up right-hander Bobby Korecky to help ease the load on their taxed bullpen. Korecky posted a 0.68 ERA with five saves in 10 appearances (13 1/3 innings) for the Red Wings this season. Gardenhire said the club needed an extra arm after watching its 'pen throw 7 1/3 innings on Thursday. Korecky arrived at the ballpark on Friday, and was available to pitch, if needed. "I think you could probably get through the ballgame with what we have, but we needed another pitcher to protect ourselves," Gardenhire said. "If we were to have something happen early in the ballgame we would be up a creek if we didn't have another guy." Adding Korecky was made easier by the fact that the Twins will not need a fifth starter for two weeks. With a stretch of three off-days in eight days beginning Monday, the club can go with a four-man rotation for quite some time. Right-hander Kevin Slowey will likely be the pitcher to get the call when that time comes. Slowey is set to start for Class A Fort Myers on Saturday. He will then likely make two starts for Rochester before being put on the back end of the rotation on Saturday, May 10 when the team needs to add a fifth arm. With other suitable arms to fill in at the Major League level, the Twins will give Liriano plenty of time to get himself righted at Rochester. With the Red Wings, Liriano will have a chance to work with pitching coach Stu Cliburn to help get his fastball more consistent. Minor League pitching coordinator Rick Knapp will also spend time there trying to help Liriano get back on track. And while Liriano knew that his return from surgery likely would have its setbacks, it's been a more difficult process than he ever imagined it would be. "It's still hard to deal with [the struggles]. I didn't expect that -- how wild I'm pitching right now," Liriano said. "But I will come back, sooner or later."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.