Liriano elects surgery, may miss '07

Liriano elects surgery, may miss '07

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' hopes of having Francisco Liriano in the rotation for next season were erased on Friday when the club announced that Liriano will undergo Tommy John elbow surgery on Monday in Los Angeles.

The surgery will be performed by noted specialist Lewis Yocum, and he will be assisted by Twins team physician John Steubs. The surgery means that Liriano will likely be sidelined for the entire 2007 season.

The decision to perform surgery comes after months of uncertainty for Liriano, as he has continued to be plagued by soreness in his left elbow. After being examined by Twins physicians along with other specialists -- most notably James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., and John Uribe in Miami -- without any real answers, Liriano flew to California on Thursday to get a final opinion from Yocum.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said that nothing new was found in the most recent exam by Yocum, but a decision was finally made to do something about the problem.

"The therapy and the rehab didn't seem to be working," Ryan said from Arizona, where he's monitoring the progress of Twins prospects in the Arizona Fall League. "Francisco continued to feel some soreness in there, so we're going to proceed with the surgery, and obviously he's going to miss next year."

Liriano first began having trouble will his left elbow in early August. It was determined that the 23-year-old had a mild strain of the ulnar collateral ligament and went through a rehabilitation program before trying to return to the mound on Sept. 13. He lasted just over two innings in that start before feeling the same type of pain in the elbow, forcing him to leave the game.

A decision was made at the time to have Liriano rest the elbow before once again trying a rehabilitation program when the Twins' season ended. Liriano headed to the team's year-round training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., after the club was eliminated from the playoffs, and he remained there until Oct. 21, when he experienced pain again during his first light-throwing session.

Frustrated with the continuing pain, Liriano left the facility and started exploring what other options may have been available. He spent some time in the Dominican Republic to celebrate his birthday before a decision was finally made to have the lefty visit Yocum for one last opinion. And on the same day that Yocum examined Liriano, the decision was made to have the surgery.

"It's disappointing when anyone goes through a surgical procedure, because that's something you don't want to have happen," Ryan said. "Under the circumstances, something needs to be done, so we'll take care of it."

Losing Liriano, who was 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA last season, is just another hit to a rotation that already appears to have depth issues. With Brad Radke expected to formally announce his retirement in the coming weeks, the Twins were already planning to add starting pitching this offseason. The only guaranteed spot in the rotation appears to belong to ace Johan Santana.

But while the news of Liriano's surgery certainly wasn't something positive for the club, Ryan said that it doesn't really change the Twins' approach this offseason.

"There wasn't any guarantee that he was going to be able to perform," Ryan said of Liriano. "Today's decision just means we have finality here. We need to move forward. We know we're not going to have him and we need to find some other people, whether it's through outside resources or from within the organization, to pick up the innings that we're losing with him."

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