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Updated: July 29th, 2012 12:37am
Mackey: 'Unfulfilled' is best word to describe Liriano's Twins career

Mackey: 'Unfulfilled' is best word to describe Liriano's Twins career

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by Phil Mackey

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Chicago White Sox, of all teams, should know.

After all, White Sox hitters have come to bat 307 times against former Minnesota Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano since 2005 -- roughly equivalent to a half-season's worth of games.

The White Sox saw Liriano twice in 2006 when he was in his most un-hittable state, pre-Tommy John surgery, throwing darts in the upper-90's and perhaps the filthiest slider any major league pitcher has ever thrown.

The White Sox had front-row seats for Liriano's 123-pitch, six-walk no-hitter at U.S. Cellular Field on May 3 of last season -- a performance that came completely out of nowhere considering Liriano's 9.13 April ERA.

And most recently, the White Sox put the only significant smudge on Liriano's pre-deadline resume (post-bullpen demotion) -- seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings earlier this week as the left-hander pitched with the weight of unknown circumstances bearing down on him.

The White Sox then traded for Liriano four days later.

If anyone knows exactly what they are getting in Liriano, it's the White Sox.

Problem is, the White Sox really don't know exactly what they're getting in Liriano.

Nobody does.

Liriano doesn't even know what the White Sox are getting in Liriano.

He is, without much doubt, one of the most enigmatic figures in franchise history. So much so that the Twins -- starved for starting pitching and heading into 2013 with Scott Diamond as the only viable option under contract -- did not even seriously consider offering Liriano an extension.

After the trigger was pulled, Twins general manager Terry Ryan spoke with Liriano about his time in the organization. It was Ryan who acquired Liriano in November of 2003, along with Boof Bonser and Joe Nathan, in a deal with the San Francisco Giants for catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

"We talked about what he's done for the organization," Ryan said. "He's been here for quite a long time. Frankie is not exactly is not a guy you're going to get a charge out of with any situation. But I've known him quite a long time through the good and the bad. He likes it here and that's a good thing. It's good to hear a player has loyalty to an organization. He's won with us and he's had tough times with us."

Ryan added, "I do want to mention that this guy is one of the best guys we've got in that clubhouse. He's a good teammate. He's a good worker."

The 2003 trade, which is widely considered perhaps the most lopsided in Twins history, also cleared room for Joe Mauer to take over behind the plate.

Pierzynski is currently sidelined with a strained oblique, but at some point he will return to form a battery with Liriano, thus bringing the last nine years full circle.

"Unfulfilled" is probably the best word to describe Liriano's Twins career.

Unfulfilled for two reasons -- because we'll always wonder what might have been if Liriano's magical arm would have held up and allowed him to pitch for several years like he did as a 22-year-old in 2006.

And because we'll always wonder why the post-surgery Liriano -- even when still armed with better stuff than 90% of his peers -- was unable to find consistency.

And now we'll wonder what the hell he's going to do over the next two months as the White Sox push for the playoffs.

We won't be surprised with any result.

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