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Updated: May 26th, 2012 11:07am
Looking to spark rotation, Twins once again turn to Francisco Liriano

Looking to spark rotation, Twins once again turn to Francisco Liriano

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- After Anthony Swarzak was blasted for six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings on Friday night, the Minnesota Twins starting pitchers' collective ERA is 6.49 -- nearly one full run higher than the next worst team, Colorado (5.55).

In the latest attempt to spark something positive, the Twins will once again turn to Francisco Liriano, who is set to return to the starting rotation on Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics.

Liriano was removed from the rotation in early May following a stretch of six starts in which he posted a 9.45 ERA with 21 strikeouts, 19 walks, six home runs and 37 hits allowed in only 26 2/3 innings.

In five relief appearances Liriano allowed four earned runs in 7 1/3 innings, striking out nine while walking seven.

Still not great.

"We liked the way he was handling himself out there, and he needs to get back out there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We need him in our rotation. We can't just keep bouncing around from guy to guy to guy to guy.

"We just need Frankie. We said we were going to give him a few shots out of the bullpen, let him calm down a little bit. Now we'll put him back out there and see if we got that pitcher going."

Liriano, 28, is making $5.5 million this season and will become a free agent when the year is over.

The left-hander has thrown first-pitch strikes to only 51.5% of opposing hitters, and only 36% of his pitches have crossed through the strike zone. By comparison, among qualified pitchers Cliff Lee leads the majors by pumping 54% of his pitches in the zone. Kyle Drabek ranks last at 31%.

It's worth noting Liriano's average fastball on Friday night was 94 mph, and he touched 97 mph once, but that velocity is likely higher because he was pitching in short relief.

Swarzak grinded through Friday's game with a flu bug, and he was sent home early on Saturday morning as well. He will return to the bullpen when ready to pitch again.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd