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Blue Jays want Liriano in the ‘pen despite rough outing

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With the postseason looming in the not-too-distant future, teams are beginning to experiment with unorthodox methods of roster optimization. For the Blue Jays, that meant slotting left-handed starter Francisco Liriano into the bullpen on Friday.

Manager John Gibbons decided to shake things up after realizing that a couple of off days would have interrupted the rhythm of his six-man rotation. Shifting Liriano to the ‘pen, even temporarily, afforded the team more flexibility with the rotation and gave them an informal look at Liriano in a new role, one he might still have come October if the Blue Jays can’t find a suitable left-handed alternative by then.

Unfortunately, what seemed like an interesting idea on paper didn’t translate to the field nearly as well as it should have. Liriano failed to record a single out during the Blue Jays’ 8-3 loss to the Rays, starting with a leadoff home run to Luke Maile and ending with a Kevin Kiermaier RBI triple.

Perhaps the Blue Jays should have seen it coming. After all, this hasn’t been Liriano’s finest season, not by a long shot. The southpaw’s 5.22 ERA hasn’t been this high since his last bullpen role in 2012, which he polished off with a 5.34 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over 156 ⅔ innings.He’s also dealing with control issues after his walk rate shot up from 9.1% in 2015 to 12.7% in 2016, matching the career-high mark he set in 2011. With the Red Sox just 1.5 games away from overtaking the Blue Jays for the AL East lead, taking an -0.1 fWAR player and sticking him in more high leverage situations could be a risky move.

For now, however, Gibbons seems committed to Liriano’s new role, if only to ensure that the rest of the rotation stays intact.

That was Day One of the Francisco Liriano Bullpen Experiment. We’ll see what Day Two has in store for the Blue Jays tomorrow evening.

Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.

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