Francisco Liriano is a name that no Minnesota Twins fan will forget for a very long time.
Liriano was not anything special on paper when you look back on what he did with the organization at the Major League level. In parts of seven seasons with the team, the Dominican Republic native posted a 50-52 record with a 4.33 ERA. But he really was something special despite mediocre numbers and nobody who watched him pitch for Minnesota can deny that.
Twins fans get the experience of watching Francisco Liriano throw once again tonight as Minnesota is kicking off a two game interleague series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. This has become a rare occurrence and it marks just third time he will face his former team since Minnesota traded him at the deadline in 2012.
There was an incredible amount of high points to Liriano’s career as a Twin. Watching him pitch as a rookie in 2006 was without question some of the most exciting pitching that anybody has ever witnessed. He was 12-3 over 16 starts with an impressive 2.16 ERA, which helped him get onto the AL All-Star team that season. The southpaw also struck out almost 11 batters per nine innings pitched that year. Then came some low points.
Liriano needed Tommy John Surgery which cut short the 2006 season for him. It forced him to miss the entire 2007 season as well. His performance was all over the place after his return to baseball in 2008. His records over the next five seasons were 6-4, 5-13, 14-10, 9-10 and 3-10 as he become one of baseball’s most incontinent pitchers. This led the Twins to eventually give up on the man who used to be an elite prospect as they sent him to off to the Chicago White Sox.
Even though the overall numbers were not impressive by any standards, fans always seemed to know that the unhittable man was somewhere inside. This feeling became very true on May 3, 2011 when Liriano threw a no-hitter against the White Sox, but it’s only fitting to his career that he failed to get out of the fourth inning in his starts before and after that game. He was also good enough to receive Cy Young votes in 2010, but like his no-hitter being surrounded by two bad outings, he had a combined 14-23 record in the years before and after that season.
Liriano’s inability to blossume into the Twins ace after Johan Santana is just one reason why the team has had one of the worst starting staffs in baseball over the past few seasons. The team expecting the world from him and throwing a number of eggs into the Liriano basket really did come back to get them. But all might be forgiven with Liriano taking the mound against his old team tonight.
The Twins just don’t look like a bad team right now. Minnesota is currently holding onto the second wild card spot in the American League, and the sample size isn’t even that small anymore as we are almost a quarter of the way through the 2015 season.
Things aren’t too bad right now for Liriano either, who has found a nice home in Pittsburgh and he currently has a respectable 3.17 ERA over 62 starts with the team over two plus seasons.