'99.999' percent: Twins' Liriano expected to hit DL

Updated: August 9, 2006, 10:29 AM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano's determination to pitch with pain looks like it will land him on the disabled list.

"You want percentages, it would be 99.999 that he would go on the disabled list," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said before the Twins' game at Detroit on Tuesday night.

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Alan Schwarz and Rob Neyer discuss Francisco Liriano being out indefinitely, the Red Sox's playoff chances and the NL wild card race.

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Liriano -- 12-3 with a league-leading 2.19 ERA -- missed a start on Aug. 2 with inflammation in his left forearm, but returned to the rotation on Monday night against the Tigers. He gave up four runs and a season-high 10 hits in just four innings, saying after the game that the pain had gotten worse and moved closer to his elbow.

Gardenhire said Tuesday he was concerned because Liriano had told coaches that he was feeling fine heading into that start.

"The problem is, he's been trying to pitch through this thing," Gardenhire said. "He has told us that he's been fine, but I don't think he's really been fine. We just want him to be up front with us because he's a 22-year-old man, and we have to protect his young arm."

Liriano will have "an extensive, advanced MRI" when the team returns to Minneapolis on Thursday, Gardenhire said. "More than likely, we'll put him on the disabled list and bring in a pitcher to start Saturday."

"We'd love to see him take the ball, and he's been a huge boost to our rotation and we'll miss him. But we want him to understand it's about taking care of his arm so he's here for many, many years."
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said of Liriano's ailments

Losing Liriano would be a crippling blow to the Twins' playoff hopes. His move from the bullpen to the starting rotation in May coincided with a remarkable run by the Twins that helped them rebound from a poor start and get right back into the AL wild card race. They entered Tuesday night a half game behind Boston and Chicago in the AL wild card race.

But the Twins aren't taking any chances with one of the best young pitchers in the game.

"We'd love to see him take the ball, and he's been a huge boost to our rotation and we'll miss him," Gardenhire said. "But we want him to understand it's about taking care of his arm so he's here for many, many years."

In preparation for a seemingly imminent move, the Twins purchased the contract of right-hander Matt Garza from Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday.

Garza, the team's first-round draft pick in 2005, has made a fast rise through the minors, dominating at every stop. He was 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA and 33 strikeouts in five starts for the Red Wings. In his minor league career, Garza is 18-8 with a 2.73 ERA and 243 strikeouts in 37 starts.

The Twins have long believed in not rushing young arms to the big leagues, but they don't have many other options right now.

"He's got a good head on his shoulders, a great fastball and he locates well," Gardenhire said of Garza. "He worked his way through the system in one year. We saw him in spring training and thought he had great stuff."

To make room for Garza, who will join the team for Tuesday night's game against the Tigers, the Twins optioned right-hander Mike Smith to Rochester. Smith gave up four earned runs in three innings of his only start for the Twins.

The back end of the rotation has been a trouble spot for the Twins all season, and Garza will be the latest candidate to try and shore it up. Scott Baker, Boof Bonser, Kyle Lohse, Carlos Silva and Smith have all been unable to provide consistency in the last two spots of the rotation.

Garza started the year at Class A Fort Myers, going 5-1 with a 1.42 ERA and 53 strikeouts in eight starts. He was 6-2 with a 2.51 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 10 starts at Double-A New Britain before being promoted to Rochester.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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