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.

Yankees set to activate Giancarlo Stanton on Tuesday

Giancarlo Stanton
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Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton is set to return from the injured list on Tuesday, manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Sunday. The timing coincides well with the addition of Edwin Encarnación, who was acquired from the Mariners on Saturday evening and is expected to be active and available for the Yankees as soon as Monday night.

The Yankees have every reason to hope that Stanton will be able to return to his usual 30+ homer, 4.0+ fWAR self as he works his way back to a full-time role this season. (Fueling some of that hope: Four home runs in 10 PA at High-A Tampa during his latest stretch of rehab games.) Undoubtedly, they’re still prepared to play it safe with the 29-year-old, who has already suffered significant shoulder, biceps, and calf injuries and has not appeared in a major-league game since March 31. Through the Yankees’ first three games of 2019, he went 2-for-15 with a pair of singles, seven walks, and four strikeouts.

With Encarnación slotting into a DH/first base role, Stanton is expected to spend the bulk of his playing time in the left field corner. That may cause a bit of a logjam in the outfield, as Brett Gardner took over that spot in Stanton’s absence and will likely be forced into a backup role once Aaron Judge returns from the IL — but for now, Boone says, he “still expects Gardy to play a lot.”