What happens when Francisco Liriano “pitches to contact”

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Prior to this afternoon’s game Ron Gardenhire told reporters that he and pitching coach Rick Anderson have been trying to convince Francisco Liriano to “pitch to contact” rather than focusing on racking up strikeouts.

Liriano apparently listened, because this is what happened in the fourth inning:

Single

Single

Single

Single

Single

Double

Ground out

Single

Caught stealing

Single

Strikeout

Six runs on eight hits and maybe three of them were well-struck. Even the double was on a ground ball down the third base line. And he needed a strikeout just to escape the nightmare inning filled with bloopers falling in and grounders getting through.

There are certainly positive aspects of pitching to contact, including better control and going deeper in games, both of which Liriano could stand to improve upon. However, when a pitcher is coming off a season in which he racked up 201 strikeouts in 192 innings while posting a 3.62 ERA does it really make much sense to ask him to “pitch to contact”?

Beyond that, why should Liriano trust that the Twins’ sub par defense (which today includes Michael Cuddyer at second base) is up to the task of making him look good with a pitch-to-contract approach? Last season no defense in the league turned a lower percentage of balls in play into outs than the Twins did behind Liriano and they certainly didn’t do him any favors today.

To be clear, Liriano has not pitched well through three starts this season. He also isn’t getting much help.

Todd Helton cited for DUI following a crash

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Former All-Star first baseman Todd Helton has been charged with driving under the influence after a single-car accident in Knoxville, Tennessee.

According to the sheriff’s report, Helton’s car struck a telephone pole just before 6PM on March 18. He was not seriously injured, but was taken to the hospital for observation. Helton told deputies that he had taken an Ambien a few hours earlier. There was a cup in Helton’s car that “had the odor of an alcoholic beverage.”

Helton’s lawyer says that Helton has entered a treatment program. This was his second DUI arrest in the past six years. He was arrested in Colorado in 2013 while on the disabled list during his final season playing for the Colorado Rockies. He retired that year.

Helton, a five-time All-Star, played for the Rockies from 1997 through 2013, winning three Gold Gloves and collecting 2,519 hits and 369 homers. In 2000 he led the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, RBI, doubles, total bases and hits.