March 29, 2010
Over his tumultuous five year career, the Twins flamethrower has experienced euphoric highs and painful lows. When he replaced Carlos Silva(notes) in the Minnesota rotation in May '06, he bedazzled hitters with a nasty mixture of mid-90s fastballs, hard-breaking sliders and bewildering changeups. The then 22-year-old's spectacular end-game line (12 W, 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 10.71 K/9) pointed to years of dominance.
After experiencing elbow soreness later that season, he opted to undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his '07 campaign before it even began. His subsequent recovery over the next two seasons yielded unconfident results. Shrunken velocity and erratic control transformed the once vibrant star into a hittable WHIP whale. Walks led to earned runs. Fly-balls stretched into homers. Frustration mounted. Warren G's time in the spotlight seemed longer.
Though Liriano's fantasy reputation has dipped to Erik Bedard(notes) levels - his ADP currently stands at 220.41 (SP59) - he, in the timeless words of Joe Biden, is once again about to become a "big (expletive)-ing deal."
While most baseball fans were cursing Old Man Winter, the southpaw impressively plowed through hitters in the Dominican Winter League. In 37 innings he notched a microscopic 0.49 ERA and 47:5 K:BB split. Though the sample size was small, his stellar efforts fostered P.T.J. (Pre-Tommy John) optimism. More importantly, he regained swagger lost.
So far this spring, the momentum has carried over. With his slider in tiptop form, he's humiliated hitters. Over 14 innings, he's posted a 3.86 ERA and - keep your pants on - a 22:2 K:BB split. For the math majors in attendance, that's a staggering 14.14 K/9. And get this he's still refining his command. From MLB.com:
"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."
Ron Gardenhire briefly flirted with the idea of converting Liriano into a closer. But after Sunday's announcement a dreaded bullpen-by-committee will be employed, thoughts of the southpaw jogging in from the 'pen to AC/DC's "Fire your Guns" are now deceased. Let's be honest. He can't hang with Jon Rauch's(notes) trailer-tastic neck tattoo.
Many cautious owners still consider Leery-ano tempestuous. However, the chances of him becoming a distressed asset are minimal. Based on his lowly ADP, owners won't be second-guessing.
With his confidence high, velocity back and slider snapping, he could finally deliver a mammoth return.
Liriano's evil twin may finally be dead.
Fearless Forecast: 159.1 IP, 11 W, 3.88 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 153 K
Photo courtesy of US Presswire