Twins hope Liriano can heal in Florida without surgery

Updated: October 9, 2006, 6:17 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano is off to Florida, and the Minnesota Twins are hoping his left elbow will heal there during the offseason.

Starting Pitcher
Minnesota Twins

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
GM W L BB K ERA
28 12 3 32 144 2.16

The Twins will send Liriano to their spring training and minor league facility in Fort Myers on Tuesday to start a therapy and rehabilitation program, general manager Terry Ryan said. Liriano will be supervised by Lanning Tucker, the team's rehab coordinator.

"We're going to put him down there and see how things go, and hopefully before he leaves there he'll be throwing off a mound," Ryan said.

A stellar season by the left-hander was halted when Liriano, who turns 23 later this month, went on the disabled list in early August. After a month of treatment, Liriano returned -- only to leave again with pain after 28 pitches in a start against Oakland on Sept. 13. He finished 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA.

Liriano had an MRI test and meetings with several medical specialists, all confirming that he has no structural damage. The Twins have been mystified, however, about what has caused the soreness in his elbow. The injury has officially been listed as a mild strain of the ulnar collateral ligament.

For now, Liriano doesn't need surgery, but that could change if he doesn't show improvement this winter. Though the unanimous goal is to get him ready by next February for the start of spring training, there is no guarantee.

This week, the team's thoughts are suddenly turned to the offseason, after being swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the A's.

Ryan's first decisions surround contract options for 2007 on center fielder Torii Hunter ($12 million with a $2 million buyout) and starting pitcher Carlos Silva ($4.325 million with a $100,000 buyout).

There are also potentially eight players up for salary arbitration and big raises, including batting champ Joe Mauer, MVP candidate Justin Morneau and cleanup hitter Michael Cuddyer.

The Twins made some minor moves Monday, removing left-handers Dave Gassner and Justin Jones and corner infielder Terry Tiffee from the 40-man roster -- making them eligible to sign with other teams.

Gassner, 27, spent most of the year on the disabled list with an elbow strain and did not pitch in the majors. Jones, 22, started with Class A Fort Myers and moved up to Double-A New Britain.

Tiffee, 27, split the season between Triple-A Rochester and Minnesota, batting .244 with two homers and six RBI in 45 at-bats for the Twins.

The team also reinstated outfielder Shannon Stewart from the 60-day disabled list, but the veteran will be a free agent and is not expected to return.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press