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Updated: March 8th, 2012 4:23pm
Notebook: Can Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker lead Twins' rotation?

Notebook: Can Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker lead Twins' rotation?

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins' pitch-to-contact philosophy has never been more evident than in 2011, as no pitching staff allowed more contact than the Twins' -- 83.5% of swings, to be exact.

With Carl Pavano (85% contact last season), Nick Blackburn (89%) and Jason Marquis (85%) all slated to pitch in the starting rotation, contact shouldn't be hard to come by.

But in a perfect world, the Twins' rotation wouldn't be anchored by pitch-to-contact guys.

In a perfect world, the rotation would be anchored by Scott Baker (80%) and Francisco Liriano (73%) -- the two Twins starters with the highest upside, and the two who rely the most on strikeouts.

In his second start of the spring on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays, Liriano threw three scoreless innings, allowing only one hit while striking out five of the nine batters he faced. The left-hander threw only 34 pitches (24 strikes), and three of the four batted balls he allowed were grounders. Vintage Frankie, even if most of the batters he faced aren't major leaguers.

Baker pitched two scoreless innings against the Rays on Wednesday in Port Charlotte.

These early spring starts have very little meaning, other than Baker and Liriano feeling healthy after dealing with elbow and shoulder issues, respectively, in 2011. But both have teased the Twins with top-of-the-rotation talent over the past two seasons -- Liriano in 2010 with his 201 strikeouts and 3.62 ERA, and Baker with a 3.21 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 131 2/3 innings last year before elbow discomfort shut him down.

What are the chances both can put together full, productive seasons in 2012?

"What do I look like, I've got a friggin hat on my head and can tell the future?" Gardenhire said Thursday. "I wish I knew that. If I knew that, I'd go to Vegas. We just don't know. That's why we have to play the games and we have to see how they do over the course of the year. We just hope they stay healthy and we'll take it from there."

Today's result

Rays 1, Twins 0

First baseman Aaron Bates couldn't scoop a poor, one-hop throw by second baseman Luke Hughes with two outs in the top of the ninth inning -- a miscue that allowed the Rays to score the only run of the game.

• Twins' spring record: 3-4

• RHP Jeff Manship struck out the side in his inning of work.

• The Twins' offense tallied just five hits, all singles.

Numbers game

1: Base stealer thrown out by Mauer, who gunned down Desmond Jennings at second base in the first inning. "Joe can throw," Gardenhire said. "When he's out there on the field and feeling good, he's got a cannon. We all know that. He's feeling good. You can see it. He's moving around good, he's swinging good. He's doing everything. As I said, he didn't have any surgeries this offseason. We're good. "

1: Lunging catch by left fielder Trevor Plouffe, who went head-over-heels into the Twins' bullpen in the sixth inning.

2: Stolen bases for Denard Span on Wednesday.

Health report

• First base coach Jerry White is back after being hospitalized earlier this week with tightness in his stomach and chest. Tests showed no serious issues.

Overheard

"My salary this year didn't change. I think I'll still hit Carl (Pavano) up for that."
-- Glen Perkins, one hour after the Twins announced his new three-year deal, answering a reporter's question about whether he would be buying dinner for his teammates on Thursday night.

On deck

Friday: vs. Cardinals, 12:05 p.m., RHP Jason Marquis vs. RHP Adam Wainwright
Saturday: @ Pirates, 12:05 p.m., RHP Terry Doyle vs. LHP Erik Bedard
Sunday: vs. Yankees, 12:05 p.m., RHP Nick Blackburn vs. TBA

• Mauer will DH in Friday's game against St. Louis, and Morneau will DH in Bradenton on Saturday.

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