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Twins tweaking Liriano's repertoire

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On Friday night’s Fox Sports North broadcast of the Twins game, Dick and Bert talked about some things the coaching staff had relayed to them about Francisco Liriano and his upcoming start. Pitching coach Rick Anderson said that the key to getting Liriano back to his spring training form in which he was producing a lot of strikeouts and keeping from walking hitters was to ease up on throwing his two-seamed fastball so much.

Interestingly enough, the Twins insistence a year ago for Liriano to throw more two-seamers, a pitch whose action runs away from right-handed hitters, in order to induce more contact and throw fewer pitches in each start caused a stir among analysts. Now, unable to command this pitch, the Twins are requesting that he ditch it and opt to use the straighter four-seam fastball.

Anderson told reporters that:

"After awhile I said, 'What did you do in spring?' He said, 'I threw a lot more four-seam fastballs; now I'm throwing too many two-seamers and giving the hitter too much credit.' I said, 'How did you do in spring? That was pretty good. Let's get back to it.' "

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Liriano has demonstrated very little in terms of consistency when throwing his two-seamer this year. It has been located up in the zone far too much, resulting in fly balls instead of the coveted ground balls that he used to induce. According to Pitch F/X, he has not thrown too many four-seamers but the ones he had tossed are also up in the zone. Part of this effect goes back to the mechanical issue that I described earlier this week where he is flying open with his lower half which makes commanding his pitches that much more difficult.

Liriano’s velocity was also lacking but has been increasing over the course of his three starts. In his first game he was averaging just 90.8 on the heater but that grew to 91.2 in his start versus the Angels. In his most recent outing at Yankee Stadium, his velocity was up to 93.2 (perhaps in attempts to impress one of the organizations that showed interest in him). If he can maintain that 93-mph average and hit his spots, he is certainly capable of rebounding this year.

With patience running thin on Liriano’s lack of production, the Twins are trying to see if they can get him to a point where mentally he feels more comfortable. And if he feels more comfortable throwing his four-seamer, this may translate into him returning to a more relaxed and proper motion which could lead to better pitching. Liriano gets the call today against the Rays so keep an eye out for the straighter version of his fastball.


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