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.

Rays trade Jake Odorizzi to Twins

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The Rays have traded right-hander Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, per team announcements on Saturday evening. The Twins will receive minor league shortstop Jermaine Palacios in the deal. Despite previous speculation, recently-DFA’d outfielder Corey Dickerson was not included in the trade.

With Odorizzi, the Twins finally have the front-end starter they’ve been seeking all winter. It’s a bargain deal as well, as the 27-year-old righty is under contract through 2019 and didn’t require the club to part with any of their top-shelf prospects in the trade. Odorizzi will be looking to stage a comeback in 2018 after a dismal performance with the Rays last year, during which he eked out a career-worst 4.14 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 through 143 1/3 innings.

Palacios, 21, ranked no. 27 in the Twins’ system last season. He split his year between Single-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers, raking a combined .296/.333/.454 with 13 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 539 plate appearances. He’s expected to continue developing at shortstop, though he’s also seen limited time at second and third base during his four-year career in the minors.