Francisco Casillas Liriano (born October 26, 1983 in Juan Barón, San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic) is a left handed Major League Baseball starting pitcher for the Minnesota Twins.
Liriano was acquired by the Twins in one of the more lopsided (in the Twins favor) trades in baseball history. He was traded as a throw-in prospect by the San Francisco Giants
along with closer Joe Nathan
and starter Boof Bonser
in exchange for catcher A. J. Pierzynski
(now of the Chicago White Sox
). Pierzynski was released after just one season with the Giants. Often compared to former teammate Johan Santana
, another hard-throwing lefty, Liriano was touted as one of the "super-prospects" within the Minnesota Twins
organization and has even been nicknamed "The Franchise" by some Twins players and fans.
He made his major league debut in relief on September 5, 2005 against the Texas Rangers. He later joined the Twins' starting rotation and won his first game on September 30, 2005 against the Detroit Tigers. Liriano started the 2006 season in Minnesota's bullpen, but was promoted to the starting rotation in May, exchanging positions with struggling starter Carlos Silva. He won his first three 2006 starts.
After a 12-3 start to the season, which included two Rookie of the Month nods and a spot on the American League All-Star roster, Liriano led the Major Leagues with a 2.19 ERA, statistics putting him in discussion for both the American League Cy Young
and Rookie of the Year
awards, but a trip to the disabled list on August 11
left him with too few innings to qualify as the league's official ERA leader and jeopardized his chances at any such awards in 2006. On August 1
, Liriano was scratched from his scheduled August 2 start because of forearm inflammation after a bullpen session. He missed one start before resuming bullpen work without pain, but was placed on the disabled list after continued arm pain during his last start on August 7
. Liriano began a rehabilitation program on August 22
, and threw off a mound for the first time on August 30
, throwing only his fastball and changeup, and said that he would like to pitch his breaking ball later that week. Liriano made a rehab start for the Rochester Red Wings
on September 9
, throwing 40 pitches for four strikeouts and one walk in three shutout, hitless innings. After the game, Liriano reported feeling no pain in his elbow and was reactivated by the Twins. On Wednesday, September 13
, Liriano started for the Minnesota Twins in an afternoon game vs. the Oakland Athletics and went two-plus innings before leaving the game in the third inning with pain in his left elbow, ending his 2006 campaign.
On November 6, 2006, Liriano underwent Tommy John Surgery to curtail the pain in his left elbow. Liriano missed the entire 2007 season.
On April 11
, Liriano was recalled from AAA Rochester in the place of injured pitcher Kevin Slowey
. Liriano made his season debut and his first game since Tommy John surgery
on Sunday, April 13
, against the Royals. Liriano pitched 4.2 innings giving up six hits, four earned runs and walking five while picking up a loss.
On April 25, 2008, Liriano was sent back to the minors after a rough start to the season coming of Tommy John surgery. In three starts, he compiled an 0-3 record with an 11.32 ERA.
After recording an ERA of 2.67 and going 10-0 in his 11 most recent minor league starts, the Twins recalled Liriano on August 1, 2008 from AAA Rochester Red Wings, replacing Livan Hernandez in the rotation. Hernandez was designated for assigment. In his first start after being recalled, Liriano pitched six scoreless innings and struck out five, recording the win.
- 6/22/2006 at Houston, Liriano faced off against Roger Clemens, who was making his 2006 Major League starting debut, and Liriano outdueled Clemens, striking out seven for the seventh win of his career.
- 7/2/06 vs. Milwaukee, Liriano, recorded a career high 12 strikeouts, as he only allowed three hits to the Milwaukee Brewers over 8 innings, extending his consecutive win streak to 5 games, and lowering his ERA to 1.99.
- 7/8/06 vs. Texas, Liriano beat the Texas Rangers 4-0, striking out 8 in 7 innings and winning his 10th game of the season (10-1). He also lowered his ERA to a league leading 1.83 (Liriano previously did not have enough innings pitched as a starter to qualify for the honor).
Liriano's arrival in the United States for 2008 Spring Training
was delayed due to visa problems caused by a prior drunk driving arrest in 2006. Francisco and Johanna Liriano became parents on April 4, 2008. Kevin Liriano weighed 9 pounds, 7 ounces.
Prior to undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery late in the 2006 season, his fastball was often in the mid to high 90s, which combined with a slider and good change-up lead to a large number of strike outs.
Since returning from Tommy John surgery
his fastball has dropped a bit in velocity, typically ranging from the high eighties to low 90s, occasionally as high as 95. He throws a slider in the low 80s, as well as an occasional breaking ball in the mid 70s. Like his former Twins team mate, Johan Santana, he mixes in a strong change-up and racked up a large number of strike outs with it during the 2006 season. He uses his slider as an out pitch. He runs it away from lefties and down and in on righties.
It remains to be seen if he can re-capture his previous success following Tommy John surgery, as he struggled in his return to the majors at the beginning of the 2008 season. After returning from the minors after the All-Star break, however, he went 3-0 in his first three starts with a 1.45 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings despite some control issues.