The Minnesota Twins stood pat at the non-waiver trade deadline, but a day later they made a major roster move.
The Twins and their new-look starting rotation continue their pursuit of first place in the AL Central Saturday against the last-place Cleveland Indians at the Metrodome.
Minnesota (61-48) defeated Cleveland 4-1 in Friday’s opener to win for the sixth time in seven games and remain a half-game back of the first-place Chicago White Sox. The Twins haven’t been atop the Central since May 13.
The 24-year-old Liriano missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery was knocked around with the Twins in April, but he had been dominant in the minors lately. He’ll take the ball in Sunday’s series finale and join a rotation with 26-year-olds Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker, 25-year-old Glen Perkins and 23-year-old Kevin Slowey (7-7, 4.00 ERA), who starts Saturday.
Slowey has been streaky lately, and the Twins hope he can build off his latest outing, a six-hitter in a 7-0 win over the White Sox on Monday. The dominating performance came after a stretch when he went 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in his previous three outings. Immediately before that funk, though, the right-hander was 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts.
Slowey was roughed up a bit against the Indians on July 5, when he yielded five runs and five hits in six innings, but still got the win in a 9-6 game. He is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two career starts versus Cleveland.
On Friday, Joe Mauer’s two-run homer in the seventh inning broke a 1-all tie and helped the Twins improve to 9-4 against the Indians (47-61) on the season.
Minnesota is a major league-best 19-4 at home since June 17, and has won five straight over Cleveland at the Metrodome since a 4-0 loss on April 18.
The Indians, meanwhile, are tied with Washington for the majors’ worst road record since June 22 at 3-13. Cleveland has lost three of 10 overall after winning seven of its previous eight, and is 14 games behind Chicago in the Central.
Minnesota’s Justin Morneau was hitless in three at-bats Friday after batting .345 (10-for-29) with three home runs and 13 RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak. The 2006 AL MVP looks to get back on track versus Saturday’s scheduled starter Paul Byrd (5-10, 4.93), against whom he is batting .425 (17-for-40) with three home runs and three doubles lifetime.
Byrd won 15 games a year ago, but the Indians have won just six of his 20 starts this season. The right-hander was 0-5 with a 7.76 ERA in his final six starts before the All-Star break, but has yielded only one run in 13 innings in winning his last two starts.
On Monday, Byrd gave up four hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 7 2-3 innings of a 5-0 win over Detroit.
While Byrd has been pitching well lately, he has been hit hard by Minnesota this season. He is 0-2 with a 7.04 ERA in three starts versus the Twins in 2008, after posting a 3.41 ERA in winning all four of his starts against them in 2007.