FORT MYERS — Welcome back, Francisco Liriano.
The Minnesota Twins got their first good look at Liriano, their prized left-handed pitching prospect, in Wednesday night’s 4-3 Grapefruit League loss to Cincinnati at Hammond Stadium. And an impressive look it was.
Liriano, who had missed most of camp pitching for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, mowed down the Reds, striking out two in one hitless inning of work.
The Reds will get another crack at Liriano, who allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings at the WBC, on Saturday, when he starts for the Twins in Sarasota. Liriano is scheduled to throw three innings.
But the decision now is how to keep the 22-year-old on the roster. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is considering using Liriano out of the bullpen, much like when the team brough up Johan Santana in 2000.
“You can’t penalize (Liriano) for not being here, but it’s really hard to gauge where we’re at,” Gardenhire said.
“We’re going to let it play itself out. We’re going to see how he does throwing the baseball, and we’re going to to try to figure out what’s best for this ball club and for him.
“If it’s best to start him out with us in the bullpen, then I’ll talk to the general manager (Terry Ryan) and we’ll go from there. If it’s best he makes this ball club as our starter, that’s good, too.”
Liriano said he wouldn’t have a problem pitching out of the bullpen.
“I’ll be a starter, I’ll be a reliever,” Liriano said. “I just want to play baseball.”
Scott Baker, another candidate for the No. 5 spot in the Twins rotation, started the game. Baker threw four scoreless innings before surrendering a two-run home run to Andy Abad in the fifth inning.
BUMPS AND BRUISES: Pitcher Juan Rincon threw a bullpen session Wednesday afternoon, and will throw to live hitters on Friday. Rincon is recovering from elbow surgery.Outfielder Ruben Sierra is still out after pulling his right quadriceps this weekend.
“It’s going to be a few days,” Gardenhire said. “We’re not going to try to guess how many, we’re just going to let it go day by day.”
Shortstop Juan Castro will do some light swinging today, and right fielder Michael Cuddyer reported feeling better after receiving treatment Tuesday for a strained oblique.
COMING UP: The Boston Red Sox visit Hammond Stadium at 1:05 p.m. today in the fifth and final game of the 2006 Mayor’s Cup. Kyle Lohse will pitch for Minnesota against Matt Clement. The Twins lead the spring series, 3-1. Today’s game is sold out.
The Twins face the New York Yankees Friday in their second and final match with the AL East champs. Carlos Silva will face Randy Johnson at 1:05 p.m. The game is sold out.
TWIN BILLS: Minnesota is now 0-6 in one-run games this spring. ... Both Baker and Reds starter Eric Milton retired the first seven batters they faced Wednesday. ... Third baseman Tony Batista had a five-game hitting streak snapped. ... Baker leads the Twins with 17 innings pitched.
SPRING TRAINING - 2007
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