When the news came down this weekend that the Twins had traded Francisco Liriano to the White Sox for a pair of middling 23-year-old prospects, the reaction around here was understandably negative. The same questions echoed in the minds of fans across the state.
Why did the Twins deal Liriano in the wake of his worst start of the season?
Why did they back away from their stated goal of adding young, high-upside talent?
And why –
On Monday night, Francisco Liriano is scheduled to make his 130th start in a Twins uniform. It might also be his last.
With 25 strikeouts over his last two starts and a 2.84 ERA since the start of May, Liriano is the hottest pitcher in baseball. He also might be the most appealing rental available on the trade market, with Zack Greinke's market cooling and Cole Hamels perhaps closing in on an extension with the Phillies.
Just over a week remains
This week's series against the first-place White Sox will serve as a tough test for this Twins team. They've rebounded after a lousy start to go 13-10 over their last 23 games, remaining on the periphery of an AL Central race that no club seems poised to run away with. In three days, the Twins could conceivably be within 5.5 games of first place. They could also find themselves out of it by double digits.
Perhaps no one will be under a bigger microscope in
It would be nice if the Twins kept up their recent winning pace through late July, climbing back into the AL Central picture after being left for dead in May. Unfortunately, their lack of starting pitching makes that difficult to realistically envision.
In the more likely event that the Twins are firmly out of contention when the trade deadline rolls around, they'll find themselves in an unfamiliar position. Only once in the past decade has the club behaved
Back in February, I framed the Twins' rotation as a series of five coin flips. Looking back, it's funny how the worst case scenario seems to have struck in every single situation:
Carl Pavano … Heads, he remembers how to miss a few extra bats and returns to the form he showed while winning 17 games two years ago. Tails, his performance continues to descend as he ages into his late 30s.
Francisco Liriano … Heads, he regains his fastball command and helps power the top of
Francisco Liriano was tagged with a loss Sunday as he allowed five runs over five innings, handing out four walks while throwing just 47 of 86 pitches for strikes.
It qualified as his best start of the season.
Through four turns, Liriano sits with an 11.02 ERA, 2.28 WHIP and 12-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 16 2/3 innings. Only 57 percent of his pitches are finding the zone, which is the same rate he finished with in 2011. He was being counted on this year to rebound