CLEVELAND -- Francisco Liriano's return to the Twins could come sooner than later this season -- that is if he continues to pitch like he did Tuesday night. Liriano delivered another strong start for Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday, holding the Durham Bulls to just one run over six innings in a 14-2 victory. The southpaw still had some problems with his efficiency in the outing, throwing a total of 94 pitches. But he scattered just six hits and walked only one. Liriano's strikeout numbers continue to improve as well, as he struck out seven batters for the third straight outing.
Tuesday's start was a continuation of recent success for the pitcher. In his last three starts for Rochester, Liriano has posted a 2-0 record with a 2.45 ERA. "He's going to start getting antsy here pretty quick if he starts going along and dominating that league, running off a bunch of wins in a row," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And that's OK with us. Good pitching is hard to find. We know that he can be a dominant pitcher. If he starts rolling down there, then you start making decisions up here as to how you fit him in." Gardenhire stressed that Liriano's return to Minnesota would come under only one scenario. "It won't be out of the bullpen," the skipper said. "He will be in the rotation." Help in the starting staff is something the Twins could use if Liriano shows to be near old form. The club has recently suffered through its share of problems in the rotation. Since May 29, Twins starters are 0-6 with a 7.65 ERA in 12 games. Liriano will have to continue to show improvement to get that call, but the signs are there that he might be on his way back to form, and that includes his demeanor on the mound. Although Liriano had lost a lot of confidence following his rough April stint with the Twins when he went 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA, Gardenhire said that's all changed since his return to Rochester. "I haven't heard anything other than, 'He's been great,'" Gardenhire said. "[Tom Kelly], when he saw him, said he handled himself really well on the mound. We haven't had any bad reports, which was what I expected. He saw where he was at up here and he knew he had work to do. And that's the only thing he can do, is work."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.