|Liriano Looks to be Twins Ace||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on April 17, 2010
Francisco Liriano looks like he's finally back.Â That's very good news for the Twins and bad news for the rest of the American League.Â And that's because more than any other pitcher in the starting rotation, Liriano has the potential to intimidate, not to mention dominate any offense he comes up against.Â His potential can only be described as ace material, and it seems very likely that he'll realize that potential before the season is out.
And based on what Liriano has accomplished since the end of the 2009 season, in winter ball, in spring training and Thursday against the Boston Red Sox, it seems safe to say that Liriano could be the true ace that Minnesota has lacked since they traded away Johan Santana following the 2007 season.
That bodes really well for the Twins who even without Liriano were already probably the best balanced team in a wide open division.Â Now with a healthy Liriano, they become the only team in the AL who could run away with their division.Â They've certainly started out on the right foot, winning all three of their opening series and already ahead of the pack, albeit marginally just 11 games in.
But a lot depends on Liriano, a pitcher who only has a grand total of 60 Major League starts under his belt, but has borne the nickname "The Franchise" since he started pitching in the Twins minor league system.Â And he really could be, his stuff has been described as "filthy," "electric," "plus, plus" and "untouchable" in the past.Â But so much depends on an arm that could still be a bit fragile, and stuff that still hasn't quite rounded back into the form that made him so good in the past.
What's frightening is that he could become even better than that -- and he probably will be.Â He's not even 27 yet, and most pitchers don't hit their prime until after 30.Â But that is a concern for the Twins front office to deal with; on the field what the team worries about and sees is that the velocity and placement of his fastball is back to where it should be, and his slider...well his slider is just plain nasty, as is his changeup.
With three plus pitches, not to mention a strong tendency to induce ground ball outs, Liriano might well finish this season as one of the true elite pitchers in the game.
Yesterday he toyed with the Red Sox, now it's about making sure he can pitch like this consistently.Â If he can, the Twins will run away with the division and be frightening every opponent in the AL for years to come.