Notebook: Francisco Liriano, 'searching for answers,' will be skipped
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A struggling Francisco Liriano will take some time to clear his head.
Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said prior to Monday's game against the Boston Red Sox that Liriano's turn in the rotation will be skipped this week -- in part because of an off day on Thursday, but mostly because the left-hander has allowed five earned runs in each of his first four starts.
The plan is for Liriano to throw bullpen sessions on Thursday and Saturday. He will then be reinserted into the starting rotation next Tuesday against the Angels.
"We had a long talk with him," Gardenhire said. "We'll let him relax a little bit and take a load off and then go back at it on Tuesday in Anaheim. ...
"He's totally accountable for everything. No one feels worse than he does about his performances."
Asked if Liriano could pitch out of the bullpen at some point this week, Gardenhire said no.
"I don't want him to come out of the bullpen. No. He's going to skip a start, relax here, throw a couple bullpen sessions, take a load off and get back out there. Believe me, we went through all of this. Every bit of it. More than you can imagine. All the way through. We're going to do what's right for him, and it's not coming out of the bullpen and getting in trouble out there if you happen to do that."
The slow start comes on the heels of a fantastic spring in which Liriano struck out 33, walked five and looked mostly like the pitcher who posted a sub-4.00 ERA in 2010 while striking out a batter an inning.
Gardenhire acknowledged that Liriano's issues are mostly mental. The Twins, and Liriano, are hoping some time off will help reset things.
"(Rick Anderson) and him are going to be in long conversations," Gardenhire said. "They already are. As you can see, they're working on things, talking about things. He's wide open. He's had his struggles right now and he's wide open. He's searching for answers."
Willingham to leave briefly
Left fielder Josh Willingham will miss Wednesday's game to be with his wife, who is set to give birth later this week.
The Twins will place Willingham on paternity leave for three days, and a player is expected to be called up from Triple-A Rochester to fill in, possibly until Friday.
Willingham, whose 15-game hit streak came to an end in Tampa on Sunday, was penciled in as DH on Monday.
"He's played every game," Gardenhire said. "I planned on him DHing -- I was actually going to do it over in Tampa, but he had a 15-game hitting streak or something like that, so I didn't want to jinx that. So I didn't do it. He broke it himself, so now he's DHing. But I've been waiting to give him a blow."
Willingham entered Monday hitting .328/.435/.655 with five home runs and nine doubles.
• Right-hander Kyle Waldrop, sidelined with inner elbow discomfort, deemed his bullpen session on Monday a success. Waldrop said he threw all fastballs and changeups and will likely mix in sliders on Wednesday. Although he'd like for the process to speed up, "It's better to get four-and-a-half healthy months" than the alternative, Waldrop said.
• Since starting 0-4 the Twins offense owns a .283 team batting average and .425 slugging percentage. But that success has been hampered by a .235/.311/.371 batting line with runners in scoring position this season. To make matters worse, the Twins are hitting just .214/.214/.286 with the bases loaded.