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Updated: March 4th, 2012 4:18pm
Healthy Francisco Liriano 'efficient' in first spring training start

Healthy Francisco Liriano 'efficient' in first spring training start

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Coming off a disappointing 2011 season, Francisco Liriano made his first start of spring training Sunday in the Minnesota Twins' 8-3 loss at JetBlue Park against the Boston Red Sox.

The lefthander gave up one hit, struck out two and walked a batter in two innings. He threw 25 pitches, 13 for strikes, and threw first-pitch strikes to two of the six batters he faced.

"I think I'm getting closer to where I want to be," said Liriano, who pitched in winter ball this offseason after going 9-10 with a 5.09 earned-run average last season. "I just have to keep working on it and things are getting better, too."

Said manager Ron Gardenhire: "The ball came out of his hand good, he was efficient enough and liked that. That's good. First time out there perfect."

Lirano said his primary focus in his outing Sunday was continuing to work on locating his fastball.

He walked lead-off hitter Dustin Pedroia in the bottom of the first inning on a 3-2 slider, but Jacoby Ellsbury hit a liner to first that Aaron Bates caught and then stepped on the bag for the double play.

"I made an adjustment," after Pedroia, "and was throwing the ball down like I want to," Liriano said.

Liriano struck out Cody Ross to end the first inning and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the second. Both strikeouts came on sliders.

That is a pitch Liriano isn't worried about.

"I'm trying to locate my fastball and not worry about my breaking pitches right now, just my fastball," he said. "Just trying to get better with my fastball."

Liriano, who is set to be a free agent after this season, was shut down in late August of 2011 because of a shoulder strain. It was his second trip of the season to the DL.

He finished the season having no-hit the Chicago White Sox on May 3, although he walked six in that game. But Liriano's issue was his inconsistency and his inability to remain healthy.

"It's a lot different from last year," he said. "Last year the shoulder was bothering me a lot. It's way different this year and last year. Nothing is bothering me right now and it feels great.

"(I'm just) trying to stay healthy, go deep in the game, not throw that many pitches early in the game and just try to go at least 200 innings the whole year."

Following the loss by a Twins' split-squad, Gardenhire said, "it's a confidence thing," with Liriano.

"If he gets a little confused out there at times, that's when he starts kind of trying to search and find things and that's when you see him really scuffle," Gardenhire said. "When he's just letting it go and working to a spot that's when he's OK. Trying to hit the glove and not trying to over think the situations. Which that's true for most pitcher."

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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