Twins recall Liriano from Triple-A
Hernandez, Monroe designated for assignment in move
By Thor Nystrom / MLB.com
Francisco Liriano, who went 10-2 with a 3.28 ERA in 118 innings for Triple-A Rochester this season, will pitch for the Twins on Sunday. (AP)
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins fans have been clamoring for the return of left-handed starting pitcher Francisco Liriano via the jettison of veteran right-hander Livan Hernandez for the better part of two months.
On Friday, they got their wish.
The Twins recalled Liriano from Triple-A Rochester, and also selected the contract of first baseman Randy Ruiz. To make room for the pair, the club designated Hernandez and outfielder Craig Monroe for assignment, giving the team 10 days to trade or release them.
Liriano will make his Twins debut on Sunday against the Indians. Glen Perkins, originally slated to pitch on Sunday, will instead shift to Monday, the series opener in Seattle.
"Francisco has done pretty much everything that he needs to do down there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Now it's time to see what he's going to do up here."
Liriano was 10-2 with a 3.28 ERA in 118 innings for the Red Wings this season. In his last 11 starts, he was 10-0 with a 2.67 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings.
Minnesota did not make a move at Thursday's nonwaiver Trade Deadline, standing pat while American League Central leader Chicago acquired Ken Griffey Jr. from Cincinnati. The Twins are hoping that Liriano's arrival, as well as the eventual return of right fielder Michael Cuddyer, could provide them with the punch necessary to overtake the White Sox.
"You're always looking for a boost in trades and all those things," Gardenhire said. "Well, if 'Cisco comes up here like he is capable of, that could be a huge boost for our baseball team. He is a part of our future, he's a part of our present now, and we're very excited to see what he can do up here."
Liriano struggled in his return from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery earlier in the year, going 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA in three starts with the Twins before being demoted on April 25.
"I wasn't ready when I was here, so I had to go down, get myself ready," Liriano said.
Liriano believes that time is now. "It's back," he said of his vaunted sider.
Still, it was a long wait to return to the Major Leagues after a long rehab and a difficult return at the beginning of the season.
"It was hard for me; I just wanted to play baseball," Liriano said. "I did have to be patient, but there was nothing I can do about it. I couldn't pitch hurt. I tried to make sure I was healthy when I came back, 100 percent."
Despite reports to the contrary during the last month-plus, Liriano said he was not frustrated at not being called up sooner.
"No, not really," he said. "They were winning a lot of games without me. They needed a spot for me, so I just waited for an open spot."
Hernandez, previously the staff ace, was 10-8 with a 5.48 ERA in 23 starts. He allowed 199 hits in 139 2/3 innings.
The bigger area of concern, according to the Twins, was his recent performance. The right-hander began the season 6-1 with a 3.90 ERA. Since May 17, the story had been different -- a 4-7 record with a 6.59 ERA and a .364 opponents' batting average in 14 starts.
"Without his first 10 starts, we'd have really been struggling at a time when [Scott] Baker had a stint on the DL, and [Kevin] Slowey had a stint on the DL," general manager Bill Smith said. "Livan was a savior for us. But it's been a little tougher go lately."
The club shopped Hernandez prior to the Trade Deadline but could not consummate a deal.
"He did what he was supposed to do here," Gardenhire said. "He can eat up innings and all those things. You get to a situation and look at opportunities to be able to move him. That's the disappointing thing -- we weren't able to trade him. People were shying away, backing away. Its not that they didn't want him, it's just that they didn't want to make a big deal right now. ... We have Liriano waiting in the wings and our people are saying that it's about the right time. There you have it."
Monroe was batting .202 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs in 163 at-bats. He was signed as a free agent to hit left-handed pitching off the bench, a role in which he was particularly disappointing, hitting .138 with two home runs in 87 at-bats.
The Twins gave him as many opportunities as they could to get it going. But despite having a few big hits during the season, Monroe could not sustain consistent success.
"We went as long as we could," Gardenhire said.
Monroe was in the clubhouse on Friday afternoon but left without commenting to the media. He met with Gardenhire in the manager's office. While leaving, he hugged Carlos Gomez and whispered parting words.
Ruiz batted .320 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs in 111 games with Rochester this season. He is leading the International League in hits, is tied for the batting lead, and is second in doubles and extra-base hits (53).
He was apprised of the callup on Thursday evening, ironically while eating with Liriano. It led to a long night -- he said he didn't sleep due to nervousness after receiving the big news.
He didn't have much time to settle down. Upon arrival at the ballpark, Ruiz saw his name penciled into that evening's lineup as the designated hitter batting sixth.
"I'm excited right now," Ruiz said. "I'm on adrenaline."
Although the Twins have not seen Liriano in several months, a man that has, Rochester teammate Ruiz, is confident that the Twins will see a different pitcher than they experienced in April.
"I know he's healthy," Ruiz said. "Seeing him, at least three months with him, I know he's ready. I know he's going to give you all a good show."