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.

Pujols hits 701st career home run, connects for Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS — Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 701st home run, connecting Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pujols launched a slider from former teammate Johan Oviedo over the Big Mac Land sign in left field at Busch Stadium. The solo drive in the fourth inning made it 1-all.

Pujols faced Oviedo for the first time and made the 24-year-old righty the 456th different pitcher he’s homered against.

The St. Louis star hadn’t homered in a week since hitting No. 699 and 700 at Dodger Stadium last Friday. Pujols had gone 10 at-bats without a home run after two starts and one pinch-hit appearance.

The Busch Stadium crowd gave the 42-year-old Pujols a long standing ovation before he came out of the Cardinals dugout to tip his cap for a curtain call.

Pujols hit his 22nd home run this season for the NL Central champion Cardinals.

Pujols is fourth on the career home run list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).