Mailbag: Will Baker, Liriano start?

Mailbag: Will Baker, Liriano start?

Do you think Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano will be in the starting rotation on Opening Day? -- Andrew S., Yorkville, Ill.

Both are undoubtedly big parts of the Twins' future, but barring an unexpected setback in performance or injury, I believe Baker is the only lock of the two to begin next season in the rotation.

In 10 Major League games in 2005, Baker posted a 3-3 record and a 3.35 ERA. He struck out 32 while walking 14. Like the veteran starters on the staff, the 24-year-old often fell victim to poor run support.

But more important than his numbers, Baker usually had good location on his fastball and demonstrated command of three pitches. He also showed an ability to work out of jams and not get rattled by the big league adjustments. All were encouraging assets for the coaching staff and front office.

As for Liriano, who turns 22 on Wednesday, it's not as clear that's he's ready for the big league rotation. He went 1-2 with a 5.70 ERA in six games, including four starts. Liriano struck out 33 in 23 2/3 innings with just seven walks.

The rookie finished the season on Sept. 30 with a sensational seven-inning start in a victory over Detroit. In that game, he displayed great command of his mid-to-upper-90s fastball and nasty high-80s slider. Prior to that, however, the left-hander was prone to keeping his fastball up and over the plate, and sometimes he got a little too excited on the mound.

Much will depend on whether the Twins decide to keep arbitration-eligible pitcher Kyle Lohse, who will likely see his salary escalate into the $4 million range next year. There will be competition during Spring Training, too. Matt Guerrier had a solid year in the bullpen, but he would like a shot at starting next season.

Plus, the team likely will invite others from outside the organization to Fort Myers to make the battle more interesting. We'll just have to see how well Liriano does next spring. He certainly drew the attention of every decision-maker in the organization after his electric rise through the system this year. But the Twins could decide to send him down for more seasoning at Triple-A.

What was the Twins' reason for getting rid of Matthew LeCroy? He has always been a good designated hitter and a fantastic pinch-hitter. In the 2004 season, he had a handful of pinch-hit home runs and has always had the power to get 25-30 homers a season. -- Wade F., Columbus, Neb.

It was too bad LeCroy was let go, because he is a very good guy and was a positive clubhouse presence. But he basically had become a one-dimensional player, since he didn't throw, field or run very well, and he often struggled against right-handed pitching. With his $750,000 salary in 2005 likely to shoot over $1 million because he was eligible for arbitration, he simply became too expensive to keep around for the role he was playing. If he played every day in the right situation, he could certainly post the kind of numbers you're talking about.

I was wondering how a brand new baseball-only facility would improve the chances of generating more revenue for the Twins organization (besides the initial increase in ticket sales to see the Twins in a new stadium). Can you explain what all these economic opportunities are that could be improved over what the Metrodome offers? -- Tom M. Mounds View, Minn.

I don't pretend to be a stadium designer or builder, but I've been to a lot of the newer ballparks around the league the past few years. What those places have that the Metrodome currently lacks are wide and spacious concourses, which have much more available to fans in the way of concessions and retail space. Many of the recently built ballparks have one or more eat-in restaurants that seem to be pretty popular. Almost every new ballpark has its own team store on site to sell souvenirs.

Of course, the new places have many more luxury suites that attract local corporations and free-spending fans. The Twins don't even get much of the revenue of the suites at the Metrodome because that area is mostly under the control of the Vikings. Finally, most fans have shown that they don't want to go indoors on a nice summer day or night to watch baseball.

All of those amenities, and probably many more, would help bring a lot more revenue to the Twins. That, in turn, would at least put the club in position to spend more on players and free agents. It does not always guarantee a winning team on the field, but it certainly can't hurt.

Is stealing home less common now than it used to be? When was the last time a Twins player stole home? -- Josh M., St. Paul

I have not been lucky enough to see a "pure" steal of home in games I've either covered as a media member or attended as a fan. Because of the enormous risk involved in attempting to swipe home plate, it's not a favored play, especially when there are other, more reliable methods of getting a runner home. Only 11 times in history has a Twins player stolen home, with Rod Carew doing it five times while with Minnesota (three times in 1969 alone). The last to do it was Rich Becker on Sept. 27, 1997, at Cleveland.

How many Twins have pitched perfect games? -- Jenny H., Forest Lake, Minn.

No Twins pitcher has ever hurled a nine-inning perfect game. Dean Chance was credited with a five-inning perfect game in an Aug. 6, 1967, 2-0 win over Boston. There have been four nine-inning no-hitters pitched in Minnesota's history. Those were thrown by Jack Kralick (Aug. 26, 1962), Chance (Aug. 25, 1967), Scott Erickson (April 27, 1994) and Eric Milton (Sept. 11, 1999).

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.