Liriano seeing results of improved health

Liriano seeing results of improved health

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano was impressive against the Rays on Thursday, facing the minimum over three innings with five strikeouts.

Liriano allowed a leadoff single to Desmond Jennings to open the game, but Jennings was caught stealing later in the inning. Liriano struck out two batters in the first, two more in the second and another in the third.

He chalked up his second straight scoreless outing to improved health, as he dealt with shoulder issues last spring.

"Last year dealing with shoulder problems was tough, so I think pitching in winter ball helped me," said Liriano, who pitched in his native Dominican Republic during the offseason. "I'm doing better locating my fastball. I struck out a few guys with my changeup, too. So I pitched better than last time, and everything is getting better. I'm just trying to go deep into games with less pitches per inning."

Liriano said the shoulder issues that plagued him during Spring Training last year carried on into the season, as he struggled during the year with a 5.09 ERA in 134 1/3 innings.

"I battled through it the whole year," Liriano said. "Right before Spring Training I got hurt, and so I tried to battle through it, but it never got better. So it was a battle the whole year. I felt OK for like a month, but it came back. So it was up and down. But that's part of the game. But right now it feels 100 percent."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he liked what he saw from Liriano, especially because he didn't have to rely on his slider to get results. Liriano threw 34 pitches, but only four sliders, according to pitching coach Rick Anderson.

"I thought he was good," Gardenhire said. "I thought he worked good in the strike zone. Andy and I were talking early that it looked like he was flying out, but he really commanded it pretty good. He was tall on his backside, as Andy likes to say, and then had a nice little angle with his pitches, and his breaking ball was pretty decent, and his changeup. I'd say that's a pretty good day -- he only threw four sliders in 34 pitches. He controlled the game out there."