03/25/10 5:30 PM ET
Liriano has edge for fifth starter spot
Lefty prefers starting, but not opposed to closer role
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
2010 Spring Training - Minnesota Twins
News & Features
- Worth noting
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- De Vries' arm fine, slated to start next Saturday
- Morneau swings on practice field, ready for opener
- Ryan reflects on spring, eager for season to begin
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
"They haven't decided, right?" Liriano asked reporters after his start on Thursday against the Rays.A closer has not been named, at least not yet. And for now, Liriano is pleased to know that he's been considered the leading candidate for the fifth rotation spot. "I feel like I've been throwing the ball pretty good," Liriano said. "I think I deserve to be the No. 5 starter. So if they give me the opportunity, I'll be pretty happy with it. I'm pretty comfortable with where I am right now." In his latest outing on Thursday, Liriano continued to stretch out as a starter throwing 67 pitches over four innings. Liriano wasn't quite as sharp as he had been in previous outings, allowing three runs on seven hits over his four innings. He said he's still working on the location of his fastball, although it was his changeup that wasn't working so well this time out against the Rays. Even without his changeup and his fastball location not quite perfect, Liriano managed to strike out six batters over his first three innings. Liriano now has 22 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched this spring. He has walked just two batters and has posted a 3.86 ERA. The other candidate for the fifth rotation spot, Brian Duensing, also pitched in Thursday's contest. He threw four innings and gave up two runs on two hits. If the Twins make a decision to try Liriano out as the closer, Gardenhire said he would be comfortable making Duensing his fifth starter. Otherwise, if Liriano wins the starting fifth spot, Duensing would be in the bullpen. "He's throwing the ball really well," Gardenhire said of Duensing. "If we wanted to put him in the rotation, I've got no problem with that at all. I like the way he throws the ball." Liriano couldn't help but laugh when he was continually asked questions about the possibility of him becoming a closer. When a reporter joked that he might be the leading candidate for both the fifth starter's spot and the closer's job, he replied, "That's a good thing, then." One of the biggest questions for the Twins is to determine whether having Liriano in a closing role would be a good thing for the pitcher. And also they have to find out if he's really interested in doing the job. That question was asked of Liriano again by reporters on Thursday. He said the same thing as before: he'd do the job, although he'd still prefer a spot in the rotation. This time, though, Liriano's stance on the issue seemed to soften a bit. "I'm a little more OK with it now," Liriano said of the idea of closing. "You have to be ready for anything in baseball. I just want to be here." The Twins aren't expected to make a decision on their closer job until the very end of spring, waiting to see if they can acquire a closer. So for now Liriano will continue to be the front-runner for the fifth spot in the rotation. That is, until anyone says differently. "Frankie is a rotation guy, not a bullpener," Gardenhire said after Thursday's game. "He's a rotation guy and then in another week I'll tell you if he's still a rotation guy."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.