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Updated: April 29th, 2011 12:56pm
Gardenhire: If Liriano struggles again, Slowey could rejoin rotation

Gardenhire: If Liriano struggles again, Slowey could rejoin rotation

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Francisco Liriano may only have one more start to get on track.

Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told 1500 ESPN on Friday the team is stretching out Kevin Slowey on his rehabilitation assignment and could swap him into Liriano's spot in the rotation if the left-hander struggles again in his next outing.

"We've been talking about our options with him, and the first option is trying to get him right and relaxed out there," Gardenhire said of Liriano, who is 1-4 with a 9.13 earned-run average, 18 walks and 18 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings over five starts this season.

"There's times when he looks totally dominant and he'll go an inning or two like that, but then he just kind of starts misfiring, and I think once we get ahead he just kind of backs away a little bit. So, if it's a confidence thing, then we've got to really work hard to get it there, but if not, we're going to have to make a decision and see where we go from there.

"That's kind of why we're working on Slowey, getting him stretched out, in case we decide after this next start whether we're going to do something or not."

Liriano's next start is scheduled for Tuesday against the White Sox in Chicago. He has gone more than five innings only once this season and hit a new low on Wednesday, when he gave up seven earned runs on six hits in three innings against Tampa Bay.

"It hasn't been good," Gardenhire said. "I keep talking with (pitching coach Rick Anderson), and Andy says he believes there's a lot of confidence missing in there. I know Frankie said he just couldn't feel the ball the other day. But the other guys are throwing the same ball in the same weather, and he's misfiring pretty much a lot this year."

Slowey has been on the disabled list since April 9 with a shoulder strain. The plan is to have the right-hander throw 65 to 70 pitches in his next rehab outing in Florida and then bring him back to the major-league roster.

Whether he returns as part of the rotation or in the bullpen depends how Liriano fares on Tuesday.

In other injury news:

• Designated hitter Jim Thome (oblique) took a bunch of swings during Thursday's nightcap and "felt pretty good," Gardenhire said. "I had told Thome, 'I can give you another day or so, but that's about it.' Then we've got to make a decision."

• Outfielder Jason Repko (quadriceps) also is a candidate for the disabled list unless he can play in Friday's series opener at Kansas City. "He says he's able to play, but he can't run full-out," Gardenhire said. "That doesn't do me much good. So, I told him, 'You know what? I'll give you a day or so, but then we're gone.'

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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