Twins' Liriano likely to miss '07 after elbow surgery

Updated: November 6, 2006, 11:53 PM ET
Associated Press

Starting Pitcher
Minnesota Twins

28 12 3 32 144 2.16

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.

Elias Says
Francisco Liriano
Francisco Liriano, who was 12-3 for the Twins this season, is expected to miss the entire 2007 season after he undergoes elbow surgery. Since the end of World War II, only one pitcher won 12-or-more games as a rookie and did not pitch in the majors in the following year: Kerry Wood, who was 13-6 in 1998 but missed the entire 1999 season after undergoing surgery on his elbow.

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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.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press