Liriano has near-perfect rehab start

Liriano has near-perfect rehab start

MOOSIC, Pa. -- Francisco Liriano's rehabilitation outing went as well as he and the Twins could have hoped Saturday night, so now he's headed back to Minnesota, where he's hoping to impact the American League Wild Card race.

Liriano, pitching for Triple-A Rochester in the opening round of the International League playoffs, threw 40 pitches (25 strikes) and didn't allow a hit, departing after the third inning of what was at the time a scoreless game against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Red Wings would go on to defeat the Red Barons, 2-0, at Lackawanna County Stadium, earning a berth in the Governor's Cup finals against Toledo.

"Everything felt good," said Liriano, who will make his next start Wednesday against Oakland. "I didn't feel pain or sore. I threw all my pitches and I felt comfortable. I'm 100 percent and I don't feel like anything is wrong. Now I'm looking forward to getting back and doing what I was doing before all this happened."

The start of the game was delayed by 97 minutes because of severe thunderstorms, and temperatures dropped into the low 60s -- more than 20 degrees cooler than it had been earlier in the afternoon -- but neither the wait nor the elements had an adverse effect on Liriano. He struck out four, walked one and hit a batter, working through a 17-pitch third inning, in which he got clipped on the spikes by a Jason Jaramillo grounder up the middle.

The Red Barons put runners on first and third before Liriano got Josh Kroeger to fly to the warning track in left to end the inning. He then went to the bullpen and threw another 10 pitches -- changeups and fastballs -- before calling it a night.

Liriano struck out two of the first three batters he faced, using 12 pitches to get through the first inning. He went to a full count on leadoff hitter Carlos Leon, who grounded to third, but then quickly dispatched Kroeger and Pedro Swann, both left-handed hitters, striking out the pair on six pitches. He hit 96 on the gun against the latter.

The Red Barons fared no better in the second inning, going down in order on 11 pitches. Gary Burnham and Brennan King each struck out swinging.

The only serious trouble Liriano faced all night was in the clubhouse after the game, trying to avoid slipping on the beer-soaked floor as the Red Wings celebrated. He remained in a back room in street clothes, dry and smiling after watching the end of the game on television.

Glen Perkins, the Twins' top pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, came on for Liriano in the fourth and allowed only one hit over the final six innings.

"Perkins was awesome," said Liriano, who was 9-2 with a 1.78 ERA in 14 starts last year for Rochester. "He went out there and threw strikes. He did a great job."

Liriano, who went on the disabled list on Aug. 8 with a very mild chronic strain of the ulnar collateral ligament, finished off a busy week with the effort. He threw 73 pitches in an extended bullpen session on Monday before throwing another 50 pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday.

His performance on Saturday was effortless, though, as he repeatedly had the Red Barons fooled and overpowered.

"He looked good," Perkins said. "A little too good for this level. He threw the ball sharp and hard."

Liriano was 12-3 with a 2.19 ERA at the time he went down. He fanned 142 in 119 innings but began experiencing discomfort in his elbow on July 28 against Detroit, a game in which he pitched eight innings but received a no-decision. After skipping a turn in the rotation, he made his last start on Aug. 7, also against Detroit, and took the loss, allowing four runs and 10 hits in four innings.

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