"Back home I was working [on] locating my fastball," said Liriano, who was moved to the bullpen at the end of last season following what the team called a case of dead arm. "I think today you saw that. I think I was locating my fastball better than last year. My arm feels stronger, and when it feels stronger, you feel more comfortable on the mound."While he may have gone to the slider too much early on in his outing, Liriano is excited by the improvement in the pitch from last year. It may not be quite the nasty slider that he dominated the league with during his rookie season in 2006, but he induced some silly looking swings on the pitch on Saturday. "It was biting more, a little bit harder than last year," Liriano said. "My arm feels stronger so that's why my slider is getting better. Because it feels better, I'm not scared to let it go so I can throw it." One of Liriano's competitors in the race for that fifth spot in the rotation also saw his first mound action on Saturday. Perkins replaced Joe Nathan in the third inning after the closer was pulled from the game with tightness in his right elbow. It wasn't quite the entrance that Perkins had envisioned, facing runners on first and second with one out in the inning and David Ortiz at the plate. Perkins was able to induce two groundouts to get out of the inning unscathed but had a little more trouble in his second inning of work. Perkins gave up two runs on three hits while walking two batters in the fourth inning. He said the more important thing was that in his first game action, he wasn't bothered by any of the shoulder problems that plagued him last year. "I think I'm probably in between where I was at the end of last year and 100 percent, but definitely way, way closer to 100 percent and gaining ground that way," Perkins said of the status of his shoulder. "I know I feel better than I did when I threw live [batting practice] a week ago. So I think the work that I've put in with the shoulder and strengthening that, I think it's definitely working."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.