Francisco Liriano throws unlikely no-hitter

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano throws a pitch in the second inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in New York City on April 7, 2011. UPI/John Angelillo

Entering Tuesday night’s game with the White Sox, Twins’ starter Francisco Liriano held a 9.13 ERA. In his previous start, he lasted just three innings and there were rumors that Kevin Slowey would replace him in the rotation.

So naturally, Liriano no-hit the ChiSox on Tuesday. Granted, it wasn’t a masterpiece as he walked six and struck out just two. But it was the first no-hitter of the 2011 MLB season and Minnesota’s first no-no since Eric Milton accomplished the feat back in 1999. Still, for a guy who came into the game with an 18/18 K/BB ratio and a 1.90 WHIP, Liriano’s performance was rather stunning.

Or was it? Entering the night, he was 5-0 in his last five starts against the White Sox, who were utterly helpless against the lefty on Tuesday. Plus, the Twins claimed a few days ago that the thought they had discovered inconsistency in the Liriano’s delivery. Maybe the adjustments coupled with the opponent created a perfect storm for Liriano to get his groove back.

The talks of being replaced in the rotation will certainly die down now for Liriano. He’s bought himself a couple of more starts, although if he reverts back to the same awful pitcher he was before Tuesday night then the Kevin Slowey rumors will no doubt arise again. Here’s hoping for Liriano and the Twins’ sake, this will light a fire under this struggling club.

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Capps replaces Nathan as Twins’ closer

Minnesota Twins’ Joe Nathan pitches against the New York Yankees during their MLB American League Division Series playoff baseball game in New York October 9, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES SPORT BASEBALL)

The Twins have decided to replace Joe Nathan with Matt Capps at closer according to Kelsie Smith via Twitter.


Manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson met with Nathan after Saturday’s game — a game in which he blew his second straight save opportunity — and decided it would be a good idea to put him in less stressful situations. It’s the right move, as Nathan simply hasn’t looked like himself thus far. Capps has struggled in his own right his last two outings, but he was pitching well before that and has the tools to succeed in the ninth inning. Assuming his stuff does come around, we would expect Nathan to eventually get his job back, but it’s not a given.

Nathan apparently said that he was hurting the team by trying to close and will attempt to regain his form. Maybe with less pressure and more time to recover from his 2010 Tommy John surgery, he will return to his old position and continue to close out games for the Twins. It wasn’t that long ago that Nathan was viewed as the best closer in the game.

Francisco Liriano-to-Yankees talk heating up

Over the weekend, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Yankees were keeping a close eye on Twins’ starter Francisco Liriano. On Monday, Nightengale told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio that he thinks Liriano will be traded to New York sometime in the next two weeks.

From Rotoworld:

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano throws against the Chicago White Sox in the third inning at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on August 12, 2010. UPI /Mark Cowan

We’ve heard discussion about the Twins possibly trading Liriano from a variety of sources, so it appears this rumor has legs. The Yankees have an obvious need in their rotation, but the Twins would be trading away the closest thing they have to an ace at the moment. According to Nightengale, the Twins would acquire either Ivan Nova or Joba Chamberlain, in addition to other pieces. Stay tuned, because it sounds like things are about to get very interesting.

If the Twins acquire Chamberlain, I wonder if they’ll consider him a starter or a reliever. Because obviously the Yankees’ brass doesn’t feel that he’s a starter or else he would be mentioned along with the other 25 candidates that are trying out for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in New York’s rotation.

If they do wind up trading Liriano, it’s hard to like Minnesota’s chances in the AL Central this year. The White Sox and Tigers have retooled and the Twins’ bullpen took some big hits in the offseason. Getting healthy seasons out of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer would become even more vital given the losses the Twins have (or will) absorbed in their pitching staff.

Assuming Liriano could handle pitching in the Bronx, he would give immediate hope to the Yankees’ pitching situation. Now all of a sudden, less would be expected of A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes, which is huge in the case of Burnett (who succumbed to the pressure last season after pitching well in 2009).

Yankees keeping a close eye on Liriano?

Minnesota Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson (R) and catcher Joe Mauer (L) talk with starting pitcher Francisco Liriano during the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on September 14, 2010. UPI/Brian Kersey

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Yankees are keeping a close eye on Twins’ starter Francisco Liriano, while Minnesota is keeping a close eye on the Yankees’ prospects.


Interesting. We heard earlier this month that the Twins’ front office could be open to the idea of dealing Liriano, and the Yankees, of course, immediately popped up as a potentially interested party. The southpaw is under team control through the end of next season, but if the Twins don’t think they’ll be able to lock him up on a long-term deal, exploring a trade does make some sense. Liriano, who had 201 strikeouts in 192 innings last season, would force the Yanks to give up at least one blue chip prospect.

The Yankees will need to make a move at some point because their starting rotation looks like a poorly constructed Jenga tower right now. CC Sabathia is the bottom holding everything together, while Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre comprise the rest of the shaky tower.

But I wonder whether the Yankees and Twins are a match. The Bombers have two catching prospects in Jesus Montero (who is probably viewed as un-tradeable) and Gary Sanchez that would fetch them a major-league starter, but it’s not like the Twins need a catcher. It would be interesting to see what Minnesota would ask for in exchange for Lirinao.

Twins finally reach an agreement with Carl Pavano

Nearly two weeks ago it was reported that the Twins and Carl Pavano had reached an agreement on a two-year contract, but nothing had officially been set in stone.

Until now, that is.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the two sides agreed on a deal that will pay Pavano $8 million in 2011 and $8.5 million in 2012. Another $500,000 is available through performance-based incentives.

A two-year deal worth $16.5 million is quite an investment for a 35-year-old pitcher but Pavano pitched very well in the Twin Cities last year. He finished with a 17-11 record, a 3.75 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 32 starts, so if he comes close to those numbers again over the next two seasons the contract will be worth it. He was a major part of the club’s success last season, so the contract works for both sides.

In other news, Yankee fans collectively just said, “Thank God.”

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