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Twins' Liriano likely to miss '07 after elbow surgery

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins were afraid of this: An
ailing ligament in Francisco Liriano's left elbow must be replaced,
and surgery will keep the young sensation from pitching in the 2007
season.

After meeting Friday with noted specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum in
Southern California, Liriano learned he needs Tommy John surgery --
a ligament transplant procedure that usually takes at least a year
to recover from. Liriano, 23, is scheduled to have the operation on
Monday with team physician Dr. John Steubs assisting Yocum, the
Twins announced.

"That's the way it is. Unfortunately we're going to lose him
for a year, but people come back from these with the ability to
rebound," general manager Terry Ryan said by phone from Arizona,
where he is scouting fall league games.

Promoted to the rotation in mid-May, Liriano dominated the
league with a wicked slider that he often threw well over 90 mph
and went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings as
a rookie. It's possible the strain put on his arm by throwing that
pitch so hard was part of this problem with his ulnar collateral
ligament, which first popped up in late July and was diagnosed then
as a mild strain.

Liriano pitched only six innings over the final two months of
the season, leaving a game in mid-September after two innings
because of discomfort in his elbow. He tried to throw lightly last
month in Florida at the team's spring training facility, but his
arm still hurt.

"Hopefully everything will go well, and he'll be able to get
back to the form he showed this year, which is quite high," Ryan
said.
In the meantime, the Twins must figure out how to fill out their
rotation. Johan Santana, the favorite to win his second AL Cy Young
Award this month, is set in the first spot, but veteran
Brad Radke's expected retirement will leave another void.

That's one reason why the team exercised a $4.325 million option
for next season on right-hander Carlos Silva's contract to bring
back a pitcher who posted a 5.94 ERA and allowed a majors-high 38
homers.

Beyond Santana and Silva, everyone else is inexperienced, though
Boof Bonser pitched well as a rookie and former first-round draft
picks Matt Garza and Glen Perkins are promising prospects. Scott
Baker, who went 5-8 with a 6.37 ERA in 16 starts this year, will
also be in the mix, and Minnesota will also consider more
established options through free agency and trades.