After dominating in both winter ball and spring training to get Twins fans optimistic again following a disastrous 2009 season Francisco Liriano kept rolling this afternoon versus the Red Sox, tossing seven shutout innings against a David Ortiz-less lineup.
Liriano struck out eight and induced nine ground-ball outs while allowing just four hits and two walks, needing just 96 pitches to record 21 outs. His fastball command remains spotty at times, but he has more velocity than last season and continues to get tons of swinging strikes with his slider and changeup.
Tommy John elbow surgery cost everyone a chance to see just how special Liriano could be after emerging as the most overpowering pitcher in baseball in 2006, but right now he looks a lot more like that guy than the one who went 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA last season. If he keeps pitching like he did this afternoon, the Twins are going to be very hard to keep pace with in the AL Central.
Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka said today that he “can’t say for sure” whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
Tanaka underwent arthroscopic surgery in late November to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October and, while healthy, may be behind other pitchers.
Tanaka posted a 3.51 ERA and a 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season. He also has a partially torn UCL he’s been pitching through for some time which is always something the Yankees have on their mind when it comes to schedules and workouts for their ace.
Making official what was assumed when the Giants signed Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract last month, manager Bruce Bochy announced that Span will start in center field and bat leadoff.
That means 34-year-old Angel Pagan, who’s been the Giants’ starting center fielder and primary leadoff hitter for the past four seasons, will slide to left field and bat further down in the lineup. About a month before the Span signing Bochy said Pagan would remain in the center fielder/leadoff role, but the situation obviously changed.
It’s a move that makes sense, because Span–if healthy following hip surgery–is a superior defensive center fielder with better on-base skills. And if Pagan doesn’t bounce back following a rough 2015 season then having him in left field will make it easier for the Giants to platoon him or bench him in favor of, say, Gregor Blanco or a bigger bat.
For the past few years MLB, the MLBPA and cap and helmet manufacturers have been working on various models of protective headgear for pitchers. Some of the models have been unworkable, some of them have not met the satisfaction of pitchers and others have, well, looked a little odd. At present the only pitcher who routinely wears any headgear is Alex Torres, who wears the bulky isoBLOX helmet.
Now, however, there is a new option. And, as you can see above it’s a bit different than what we’ve seen before. It’s more or less like a visor, which will have a nylon top on them to give a full cap-like appearance. The ear flaps will be lefty and righty-specific, given that righties are more likely to be hit on the right and lefties on the left given their follow-throughs.
The new caps will be given out to players this spring and, like the old ones, will be used or not used at the choice of the players. You can read more about the new helmet at ESPN’s Outside the Lines report.
Right-hander Blaine Boyer, who spent last season with the Twins, has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Brewers that includes an invitation to spring training.
Boyer was also on a minor-league deal last spring when he snagged a spot in the Twins’ season-opening bullpen and he stayed there all year, posting a 2.49 ERA in 65 innings. His secondary numbers weren’t quite so impressive, particularly his managing just 33 strikeouts compared to 19 walks, but the 34-year-old journeyman is a decent middle relief option.
Boyer has a 4.22 career ERA, including a 2.91 ERA in 105 innings since returning from injuries in 2014.