Notes: Liriano feels good in first start

Notes: Liriano feels good in first start

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Left-hander Francisco Liriano didn't have his best command, but got through two innings unscathed against Concordia University on Wednesday morning.

For a first spring outing, Liriano will take it.

"It was kind of weird being out there," Liriano said. "I hadn't pitched to a hitter since September last year."

Liriano will use Wednesday's outing as a springboard to the World Baseball Classic. He'll leave the Twins to pitch for the Dominican Republic.

"I think I'm ready for it," Liriano said. "My slider wasn't very good today. I'm working on it. I probably threw five or six sliders."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was just happy to see Liriano get in his two innings as Minnesota prevailed, 2-0, in six innings.

"He was missing the plate a little bit, but he was throwing the [heck] out of the ball," Gardenhire said.

Bouncing back: There are no givens, but Gardenhire emphasized Wednesday that first baseman Justin Morneau has put in the work to have a strong comeback season.

Morneau hit just .239 in 141 games last year.

"He has come down here and really worked hard," Gardenhire said. "He has a program every morning at 7:30. He has shortened his stride and is using his hands a lot better.

"He got out of whack [last year] and once he did that, he had a hard time getting back to where he was consistent."

Morneau will leave the Twins' camp to play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

Around the horn: The Twins are encouraged that right-hander Juan Rincon doesn't appear to have any arm issues. "He threw off the mound today and we'll see if he has any soreness tomorrow," Gardenhire said. "He has been throwing long toss free and easy." ... With the intense competition for jobs, there has been an overall serious atmosphere in the Twins camp. "We were talking about it the other day in our 'good morning' drills," Gardenhire said. "Normally, there's some joking around and laughing. But there are some guys locked in right here. They know that not many jobs are open." ... The Twins have set their starting pitching for the opening four Grapefruit League games, including the split-squad games on Saturday. It'll be Johan Santana on Thursday versus Boston, Brad Radke on Friday against Cincinnati, Scott Baker on Saturday against Tampa Bay and Boof Bonser on Saturday versus Cleveland.

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