Ron Gardenhire indicated today that Francisco Liriano could be in danger of losing his spot in the Twins’ rotation after going 1-4 with a 9.13 ERA through five outings, telling Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com that “we’ve been talking about our options with him.”
Kevin Slowey moved from the rotation to the bullpen because the Twins had six starters for five spots and is now on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, but his rehab assignment involves building up his pitch count in case he’s tabbed to replace Liriano.
Asked about Liriano’s confidence, Gardenhire noted that “it hasn’t been good” and added “that’s kind of why we’re working on Slowey … in case we have to decide after his next start whether we’re going to do something.”
Liriano was fantastic last season, posting a 3.62 ERA with 201 strikeouts in 192 innings while his secondary numbers suggested he’d have been even better if not for some shaky defense and/or back luck behind him. Instead of progressing into a clear-cut ace this season Liriano has taken several steps backwards with his command and velocity while failing to make it past the fifth inning in four of five starts.
His struggles come after the Twins questioned his offseason conditioning and trade rumors briefly swirled following reports that they had no interest in signing Liriano to a long-term contract extension, which certainly looks like a wise decision right now. He’s gone from ace in the making to possibly getting bumped from the rotation. It’s unclear if Minnesota’s “options” with Liriano would involve a trip to the DL or a move to the bullpen, but the Twins seemed frustrated with the 27-year-old left-hander even when he was thriving.