Francisco Liriano throws another gem as Twins win fifth straight series

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Francisco Liriano was fantastic again last night, following up seven shutout innings last week against Boston with eight scoreless frames against Cleveland. In those 15 innings he got 14 strikeouts versus four walks while inducing 23 ground-ball outs, which along with significantly increased velocity is creeping ever closer to 2006 territory.
Best of all the back-to-back gems aren’t the extent of his reemergence, as Liriano also dominated winter ball and spring training after an ugly 2009 campaign.
Liriano looks like a top-of-the-rotation stud again, Minnesota’s offense leads the AL in walks and ranks second in runs per game while grinding out tough at-bat after tough at-bat, and for the first time in franchise history the Twins have won five straight series to begin a season.
There are some injuries to worry about and playing time issues to sort through, but the Twins are firing on nearly all cylinders right now and the rest of the division doesn’t look capable of keeping pace for long.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.