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Thursday was a good day for the Twins and their fans. They beat the Boston Red Sox 8-0. They won two out of three in the first Target Field series. They improved to 7-3 on the season. People (ok, at least me) thought that beginning the season at .500 would be a good thing. In yesterday’s game, the only Twins starter that did not have a hit was Joe Mauer (not too worried!). Five hitters had multi-hit games. Denard Span and Nick Punto (yes, that Nick Punto) each had two doubles. Michael Cuddyer found a jet stream. Justin Morneau had three hits. Ron Mahay made an impressive return to the Twins bullpen. Jose Mijares got out of another jam.
But all anyone wants to talk about is the performance of Francisco Liriano.
And rightfully so. The talented lefty threw seven shutout innings against the Red Sox. He gave up just four hits. He walked two. He struck out eight batters. 64 of his 96 pitches were strikes. Of the 13 outs that he got there were not via the strikeout, 11 of them were of the ground ball variety.
I always feel the need to say I was wrong, because I admit, it happens, quite a bit… and that is great in my mind when it means good things for the Twins. I spent all offseason saying that I thought Brian Duensing did enough down the stretch last year to warrant the first shot as the Twins #5 starter. I thought the best thing the Twins could do was start Liriano in the bullpen, much like they did when he first came up to the team, and much like they did with Johan Santana. That strategy made sense to be because I thought he could gain some confidence by throwing in shorter stints. Hopefully he could regain his confidence and eventually be inserted back into the rotation. And then came the video from his starts in the Dominican Republic this winter. He was throwing hard, the slider was nasty again, and he was hitting his spots. Then he got to spring training and continued to show control, confidence and racked up strikeouts.
Twins bloggers around the region started to get excited again, and for good reason. In a division that boasts ‘aces’ like Zach Grienke (who pitches against the Twins tonight), Justin Verlander and Jake Peavy, the Twins really have a lot of very good starters who could be solid #2s. Francisco Liriano is the ex-factor. As Nick Punto said after yesterday’s game, “That’s [Liriano] our wild card. I feel we’ll be as strong as he is.” Liriano is capable of being an ace. In 2006, for those amazing two months, he was better than Johan Santana, who would go on to win the AL Cy Young Award. He showed some glimpses of that in Rochester in 2008. 2009 was a disappointment as his confidence was completely gone. However, in 2010, that confidence, that swagger is back…
And this is the point where I need to remind Twins fans that it wasn’t all that long ago (a week, to be exact), when many Twins fans worried about the five walks he issued in his 2010 debut in Chicago against the White Sox. I believe that Liriano is back. Maybe not to 2006 levels, and he doesn’t need to be. But if he can be in control, and he can be confident, he has the ability to not only be an All-Star again, but also to be the ace that the Twins need to go further. With that said, we also need to be fair. We need to curb the enthusiasm just a little bit. He isn’t going to be Sandy Koufax every game. As many have said, “you’re only as good as your next outing.” For Liriano, that will be next week against Cleveland.
If nothing else, Francisco Liriano has brought some excitement back. On a team with MVPs Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, that has hitters like Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span and Delmon Young, that has a very good defense, and that has four other solid starting pitchers and a solid bullpen, Liriano is potentially the most electrifying (and most important?) figure on the roster.
Maybe that is why there are still some Twins fans out there complaining about not being 10-0!!
SethSpeaks Thursday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Danny Lehmann – New Britain Rockcats
SethSpeaks Thursday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Miguel Munoz – Beloit Snappers
- Last month, the Twins released minor leaguer Kyle Carr. The left-handed pitcher had been selected by the Twins in the 12th round of the 2007 draft. They have drafted him three years earlier from his hometown of Linton, North Dakota. Yesterday, Carr signed with the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks of the independent Northern League.
- The New Britain Rockcats are 0-7 so far this season, and tonight, they get to face Stephen Strasburg. Good luck!! Actually, I think they’ll do fine against him because I guarantee every hitter will be 100% focused. Not that they aren’t in every at bat, but this will be something different.
- In former Twins prospect news, Yohan Pino will get another AAA start tonight, and he will face the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman.
Red Wings Report
Thursday – Rochester 1, Lehigh Valley 4 – If you take away the three home run balls, Jeff Manship had a decent start. The righty gave up four runs (all on the 3 HR), on seven hits (including 3 HR) in five innings. He walked none and struck out five. Matt Fox came in and threw three innings of one-hit shutout relief. Brock Peterson and Dustin Martin each went 2-4.
New Britain Notes
Thursday – New Britain 5, Portland 6 – This one was a tough one to lose. The Rockcats went into the final frame with a two run lead. Then a walk, a single, a runner picked off second base, another walk, a pitching change, two singles, a strikeout to give hope, and then a wild pitch meant another loss for the Rockcats. Mike McCardell was the starter. He worked 5.2 innings and gave up three runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out four. Chris Province came in and gave up one run on two hits over the next 1.2 innings. Joe Testa got the final two outs of the eighth inning, but got just the one out in the 9th inning. He gave up two runs on two hits and two walks. Santos Arias came in and gave up the last two hits, got the strikeout and then threw the wild pitch. Danny Lehmann did all he could for the team in this game. He picked the runner off of second base in the ninth. He also saved a wild pitch just before the game-ending wild pitch. He also went 2-2 with a triple and was hit by a pitch. Chris Parmelee continues to hit. He went 2-4 with his third double of the young season. Whit Robbins was 2-5. Steve Singleton and Joe Benson each hit a double.
Thursday – Ft. Myers 0, Charlotte 7 – The Miracle bats needed a miracle in this game. They managed just four hits in the game, although Drew Thompson, Evan Bigley and Dan Rohlfing each had a double. Bobby Lanigan gave up three runs (1 earned) on three hits and two walks in 4.2 innings. He struck out five. Michael Allen gave up a run on a hit and a walk while striking out two in the next 1.1 innings. Blake Martin then gave up three runs on four hits and two walks in two innings.
Thursday – Beloit 4, Kane Country 5 – For the second straight game, the Snappers led by two going into the 9th inning, and lost by one. However, Miguel Munoz was very strong again. He threw five shutout innings. He gave up three hits and three walks while striking out three. Peter Kennelly came in and gave up two runs on two hits and two walks and recorded just one out. Edgar Ibarra got the next five outs, allowing a hit and a walk, but no runs, and struck out three. In the eighth inning, Matt Tone struck out the four, five and six hitters. However, he started the 9th inning and walked the seven and eight hitters. The ninth hitter in the lineup bunted to Tone who got a force out for the inning’s first out. Unfortunately he then walked the leadoff hitter. Kane Holbrooks came in and gave up a bases-clearing double to end the game.
Any thoughts on Francisco Liriano or the Twins minor league system? Leave your comments here.