Liriano still in pain, may have surgery

Liriano still in pain, may have surgery

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano has stopped rehabilitation after continuing to experience pain in his left elbow and may be considering surgery.

Liriano left the team's year-round practice facility in Fort Myers, Fla., to consult with doctors on his condition. It appears that Liriano had grown frustrated with how the rehabilitation process was progressing.

Gene Mato, one of Liriano's agents, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Tuesday that the pitcher believed it was time to explore other options.

"Francisco continued to experience pain while taking part in a throwing session, and at this point, he felt it was necessary to re-evaluate his situation," Mato said. "After conferring with the Twins and the different medical personnel that have evaluated him, he will determine whether or not he wants to have surgery in the next week or so."

Liriano, who was 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA as a rookie this season and was a big part of the Twins' midseason turnaround, headed to Fort Myers shortly after the Twins were eliminated from the postseason to start a rehabilitation program. The hope had been to eliminate the elbow pain so that Liriano would be ready to pitch some in winter ball, which would have put him on track to be ready for the start of Spring Training.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan said that he believed Liriano headed to Miami to meet with his agent and discuss further plans of action. Ryan, who is in Fort Myers for the Twins' annual organizational meetings, has yet to talk with Liriano since he left but hopes to do that soon.

"I'm waiting for a call," Ryan said. "I'd like to have a conversation with him and get him back here for the rest of the therapy and then go from there."

Ryan also said that Liriano had begun to throw in Fort Myers and that he had still been experiencing some lingering soreness in the elbow.

"Not pain, but soreness," Ryan said.

This recent development didn't seem to make Ryan think that there is an increased likelihood of surgery. Liriano's exit was something of a surprise for Ryan, who said he had visited with the pitcher during his time at the complex.

"I had a number of conversations with him in the morning down here and everything seemed like it was in order," Ryan said.

Even before Liriano began the rehab in Florida, he had expressed disappointment with how the process was going. The pitcher, who will turn 23 on Thursday, had talked of his frustration with the continuing elbow pain and the inability to better diagnose the cause of that pain.

The Twins and Liriano have explored many options to determine what exactly has been causing the pain in the elbow. But in at least three MRIs done over the past three months, including "enhanced" versions in which dye is injected before the procedure, all proved to show no structural damage.

Liriano has been examined by the Twins physicians as well as a few other specialists, including Dr. James Andrews, the famed Alabama surgeon.

Liriano has been troubled by the elbow pain since late July. It caused him to skip a start on Aug. 2 and then limited him to just four innings in a start on Aug. 7 in Detroit. It was after that start against the Tigers that Liriano was diagnosed with a mild sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament. He then began his first rehab program.

The left-hander returned to the mound on Sept. 13 vs. Oakland but had to be taken out after two batters in the third inning after he felt what he said was a "pop" in his elbow.

If Liriano elects to have surgery, his options appear to be either an exploratory arthroscopic surgery to further examine the ligament or the more drastic Tommy John surgery to repair the ligament.

Tommy John surgery would sideline Liriano for all of next season, which would be a blow to the Twins, who hope he will be a significant part of their rotation in 2007.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.