Twins shift struggling starter Francisco Liriano to bullpen

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Earlier this week Ron Gardenhire insisted that the Twins would stick with Francisco Liriano as a starter, but last night the team announced that the left-hander would be shifting to the bullpen after beginning the season 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA.

Apparently the new plan is to get him back on track for an eventual return to the rotation with some low-leverage relief work. Liriano took some very small steps forward in his last two starts, but has been mostly terrible since last season and it would be worth seeing what he can do in a one-inning role before free agency beckons this offseason.

Liriano was the best, most dominant pitcher in baseball as a 22-year-old rookie in 2006, but Tommy John surgery followed after 16 starts. He returned with much lesser raw stuff, but still managed to be a fantastic starter in 2010. That success vanished as well and since then Liriano has a 5.81 ERA and 133/94 K/BB ratio in 161 innings.

Liriano has been bad enough for long enough that trying to salvage some value out of him with a move to the bullpen is perfectly reasonable, but replacing him with 27-year-old Triple-A right-hander P.J. Walters isn’t likely to actually keep more runs off the board. Walters has a 7.24 ERA with 12 homers allowed in 51 innings as a big leaguer, averaged just 88.0 miles per hour with his fastball during that time, and has a 4.51 ERA in 91 career starts at Triple-A.

Jonny Venters is back in the majors

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The Rays announced on Wednesday that the club purchased the contract of lefty reliever Jonny Venters from Triple-A Durham. The 33-year-old hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to a continuous battle with arm injuries. The Rays note that he has undergone two and a half Tommy John surgeries, which is a number that seems to be in dispute.

Venters signed a minor league contract with the Rays in December. With Durham so far this season, he gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Before the injuries, Venters was among the best relievers in 2010-11. In those two seasons, he posted a combined 1.89 ERA with 189 strikeouts and 82 walks in 171 innings.