Rumors continue to swirl around Twins ace Francisco Liriano and the Yankees

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Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune got the Francisco Liriano rumor mill rolling two weeks ago by reporting that the Twins aren’t interested in signing the 27-year-old left-hander to a long-term contract extension and are open to the possibility of trading him before he becomes a free agent following the 2012 season.

I speculated that the Twins were undervaluing Liriano by focusing on his win-loss record and ERA rather than taking a deeper look at his exceptional secondary numbers. He’s the “ace” they want.

Shortly after that Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson publicly criticized Liriano’s lack of offseason conditioning and manager Ron Gardenhire chose Carl Pavano, not Liriano, as the Opening Day starter, throwing a little more gas on the Liriano fire.

Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony downplayed the situation last week, but stopped well short of putting it completely to rest by saying, among other things: “We’re not talking to anybody right now on Francisco Liriano.” Right now, of course, being the phrasing of note.

Well, now the reports linking Liriano to the Yankees are starting to roll in. Bob Nightengale of USA Today, who has broken Twins news several times in the past, wrote that the Yankees “are keeping a close eye” on Liriano “while the Twins are keeping tabs on Yankees prospects” and then yesterday Nightengale said on Jim Bowden’s radio show that “it’s possible” Liriano is traded to the Yankees for a package headlined by Joba Chamberlain or Ivan Nova before the season begins.

Building off that, Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com reported yesterday that “the Yankees called the Twins this offseason about the availability of Liriano” but “as of right now Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said there are no talks with the Twins.”

Twins fans understandably aren’t happy about talk of trading Liriano, particularly now that the Yankees are rumored to be interested, but it seems awfully hard to believe that all this speculation–from Christensen’s initial report and the Twins’ general attitude toward Liriano to Antony’s non-denial denial and Nightengale’s follow-up–is somehow being invented out of whole cloth. As a Twins fan I hope I’m wrong.

Gio Gonzalez has a high ankle sprain, will be replaced on the NLCS roster

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It was understandable if you forgot about it given that it happened hours and hours before the end of the game, but Gio Gonzalez left in the second inning of Game 4 of the NLCS after coming down funny on his ankle while fielding a ball in play.

While Gonzalez attempted to stay in the game after that it was clear that he was not right, so the Brewers went to the bullpen. After the game, it was clear why he wasn’t right: Brewers manager Craig Counsell said that Gonzalez had a high ankle sprain and that it was likely he would be replaced on the roster with another pitcher.

This may actually benefit Milwaukee in the very short term given that Milwaukee used six relievers last night, so there will be a fresh arm on staff for Game 5 tonight. It does mean, however, that Gonzalez’ season is over, as a player replaced due to injury in one playoff series is required to sit out the next one. If the Brewers make it to the World Series, Gonzalez will not be available no matter how he is health, wise.

Counsell did not say which pitcher will replace Gonzalez on the roster. We’ll find out for sure later today. Among the possibilities are Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Jordan Lyles and Matt Albers.