Francisco Liriano was terrible for the Twins and White Sox last season and then made headlines for all the wrong reasons this winter when his two-year deal with the Pirates had to be reworked due to an at-home injury.
That delayed Liriano’s season debut until mid-May, but he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball since then and finished the first half on a high note last night by shutting out the A’s for seven innings. Liriano heads into the All-Star break at 9-3 with a 2.00 ERA in 12 starts, posting an 80/28 K/BB ratio and .221 opponents’ batting average in 77 innings.
He’s not quite the overpowering force of nature he was for Minnesota before undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery, but Liriano is close enough to slice through the National League while looking like one of the best free agent signings of the offseason.
The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.
Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.
While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.