FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- Francisco Liriano said he's making progress, even if his spring numbers have yet to catch up to how he feels.
Liriano allowed three runs and five hits over three-plus innings in the Minnesota Twins' 5-3 loss to the Florida Marlins on Monday. He walked two, struck out one and threw 33 of his 59 pitches for strikes."I think I'll be good enough to start the season," said Liriano, 15 months removed from "Tommy John" surgery on his left elbow.Liriano continued to throw more fastballs. He avoided reliance on his slider, which puts more stress on the elbow and may have resulted in his injury."I don't want to use my slider as much this year," he said. "It could help me stay healthy. We'll see."Liriano went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA in 2006 before the arm troubles began."The ball was coming out of his hand fine," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was a lot better than he was the last time."Liriano, a native of the Dominican Republic, arrived at camp a week late because of visa problems. He has an 8.10 ERA in three starts this spring and could get three more before the start of the regular season.Liriano didn't allow a run in the first two innings against Florida, got into a little trouble in the third and couldn't make it out of the fourth."He hasn't pitched in a long, long time," Gardenhire said. "There's a lot going on with him. He's trying to come back from a lot. He's gotten a little bit better with his command."If it looks like he can handle it, we'll make a decision. If it looks like he has thrown the ball over the plate and has command, we can decide to keep him with us. If he's not ready, he's not ready."Chris Volstad turned in another strong outing for Florida, giving up one run and five hits in five innings. Volstad, vying for a spot in an injury-depleted rotation, lowered his spring ERA to 1.13."He did good," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He had command of his fastball. He threw the breaking ball over."Twins shortstop Adam Everett went 2-for-3 with a run-scoring double, and left fielder Delmon Young, hitting .361 this spring, hit an RBI single.
Twins pitcher Scott Baker, who has been out with a strained muscle in his back, is sick with the flu. He was excused from camp Monday. "Baker went home sick," Gardenhire said. "I'm not sure when he's going to be back. With this setback, we might have to make an adjustment with him. He hasn't thrown in a while. We'll see where he's at. That's all we can do." ... Retired major leaguer Jeff Conine will sign a one-day contract with the Marlins on March 28, allowing him to bow out in the ballpark where he earned the nickname "Mr. Marlin." Florida plays the New York Yankees that day in an exhibition game. Conine also will throw out a ceremonial first pitch before the Marlins host the New York Mets on opening day.