Twins choose Carl Pavano, not Francisco Liriano, as Opening Day starter

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Ron Gardenhire announced this afternoon that Carl Pavano will be Minnesota’s starter on Opening Day, which is noteworthy because the Twins chose Francisco Liriano over Pavano to start Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees just four months ago.

Perhaps picking Pavano for Opening Day has everything to do with his veteran-ness or maybe the Twins went with Liriano in Game 1 of the playoffs mostly because they felt he matched up better specifically against the Yankees, but whatever the case today’s announcement only adds to the recent speculation about the team souring on Liriano.

Last week Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the Twins weren’t interested in signing Liriano to a long-term contract extension despite his being eligible for free agency after 2012 and are opening to trading the 27-year-old left-hander who had a 3.62 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 192 innings last year.

Earlier this week, after Liriano had to push back his first throwing session of spring training due to some minor shoulder soreness, pitching coach Rick Anderson told LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune that Liriano’s lack of offseason training led to the soreness.

Taken individually the reports, speculation, public criticisms, and passing him over for the Opening Day start may not seem like much, but together they certainly paint the picture of a team frustrated with their young ace or perhaps not even looking deep enough at his performance to realize that he’s actually their ace. Ultimately everyone in the rotation is going to start 32-34 times as long as they stay healthy, so the Opening Day assignment isn’t especially meaningful, but in this case it definitely adds more fuel to the Liriano fire.

Phillies sign Francisco Liriano and Neil Walker to minor league deals

Francisco Liriano
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Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.

Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.

Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.