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Ryan, Gardenhire wish former Twin Liriano well

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Twins general manager Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire had nothing but positive things to say about former Minnesota left-hander Francisco Liriano, who signed with the Pirates as a free agent this offseason.

Ryan said the Twins had discussions with Liriano's agent this offseason to bring back the lefty after he was traded to the White Sox in July for left-hander Pedro Hernandez and infielder Eduardo Escobar.

Liriano said that the Twins discussed a two-year contract but Pittsburgh offered him a better deal. Liriano originally agreed to a two-year deal worth $12.75 million with the Pirates but it was later amended because he broke his right arm by accidentally slamming it in a door while playing around with his children on Christmas. Liriano, who has yet to pitch this spring, is guaranteed only $1 million this season with incentives in place to reach his original deal.

"I wanted to go to the National League," said Liriano, who hopes to return to action by mid-to-late April. "I wanted to start over, try to be more consistent, get my confidence back, go deep in games, pitch at least 200 innings. Just wanted something new."

Liriano had an up-and-down career in Minnesota with a 4.33 ERA with 788 strikeouts and 324 walks in 783 1/3 innings over parts of seven seasons.

He broke on the scene as a rookie in 2006 with a 2.16 ERA in 121 innings but missed the '07 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He had a bounce-back year in '10 with a 3.62 ERA in 191 2/3 innings but posted a combined 5.18 ERA with the Twins over the last two seasons before being traded to Chicago.

"We saw him at the time when he probably was the best pitcher in baseball in '06," Gardenhire said. "You don't get more dominant than he was that year. You saw him go through his struggles, but through it all you saw him go to the park and work his tail off. He did everything we asked. He gave us everything. I hope it all goes well for him because he's the kind of guy you root for. Always will and always have."

Ryan also had kind words for Liriano, who was originally acquired by the Twins in the 2003 trade with the Giants that sent A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser and Liriano.

"All of us that have been affiliated with Francisco over the years are appreciative of what he did for us," Ryan said. "He was very good on a few of those very good teams. I feel bad for what he's going through now, that's unfortunate. And obviously, he went through the Tommy John phase with us as well. He was a very popular teammate, he was a very diligent worker, he had a lot of talent."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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