With rotation spot in jeopardy, Francisco Liriano pitches no-hitter

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Francisco Liriano has brought no-hit stuff to the mound plenty of times in his 95 major league starts, but this was a major upset:

1. Liriano entered tonight 1-4 with a 9.13 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP this season.  He was very much in danger of losing his rotation spot to Kevin Slowey with another bad outing.

2. Liriano had never pitched a complete game as a major leaguer.  He had gotten just one out in the seventh inning this year.

3. He was at 86 pitches after six innings tonight.  He hadn’t thrown more than 97 pitches in a game this season, and had he thrown 20-25 pitches in the seventh tonight, he might not have been brought back out for the eighth even if he still had the no-hitter intact.

Liriano, though, shook it all off and became the first Twin to throw a no-hitter since Eric Milton in a 1-0 win over the White Sox tonight.  He outpitched Edwin Jackson, who famously threw a 149-pitch no-hitter for the Diamondbacks last year.

Liriano ended this one at 123 pitches.  He was able to finish it off because he threw just seven pitches in the seventh and eight in the eighth.  Double plays after three of his six walks helped a bunch, as did some fine plays from Denard Span and Danny Valencia.

The Twins will hope that it’s a turning point for Liriano or maybe even for the team as a whole.  For what it’s worth, Liriano never looked as dominant tonight as he did at certain points during his strong 2010 season.  A team hitting better than the White Sox are very possibly would have gotten to him tonight.  Still, it was obviously a big step in the right direction for Liriano, and it means that if Slowey is going to replace anyone in Minnesota’s rotation, it will be Nick Blackburn.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.