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Updated: April 24th, 2012 7:05pm
Notebook: Liriano gives 'too much credit' to hitters; RISP struggles

Notebook: Liriano gives 'too much credit' to hitters; RISP struggles

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Prior to pre-game batting practice on Tuesday, Minnesota Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano and catcher Joe Mauer found themselves in the corner of the clubhouse having an in-depth discussion with Jason Marquis listening in.

Actually, it was Mauer who appeared to do most of the talking during the 10-minute portion in which reporters were allowed to hang around.

The current plan is for Liriano, scratched from his next start due to early-season struggles, to throw two bullpen sessions this week before being reinserted into the rotation next Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels.

This path was decided upon after Liriano met with manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson for nearly 45 minutes on Monday, as the trio attempted to find a fix for the left-hander's ineffectiveness.

"I'm probably thinking too much, probably trying to overthrow, trying to do too much, trying to be too perfect sometimes," said Liriano, whose ERA is just a tick over 11.00 through four starts. "Sometimes I give too much credit to the hitter. I try to throw a perfect pitch, and it's not working for me right now. ...

"I think I know what I have to do to get better."

Since the beginning of last season, Liriano has allowed at least four earned runs in 15 of his 30 appearances. Only once in those 15 appearances did Liriano complete at least six innings.

When he does have his good stuff, Liriano says, "To be honest, I don't think about nothing at all. I just go out there and pitch. I don't think about any situations at all. ...

"Right now I've got too much in my head."

Liriano added that his impending free agency has not affected him mentally to this point.

It's fair to say this could be Liriano's last chance to figure it out in a Twins uniform.

Twins struggling with RISP

The Twins entered Tuesday hitting just .237/.314/.396 with runners in scoring position this season. With the bases loaded the Twins are hitting just .214/.214/.286 in 14 tries.

Opportunities certainly haven't been lacking, as the Twins offense is hitting .281/.337/.421 as a team -- in all situations -- over the past 13 games.

"We put ourselves in good situations and have opportunities, but lately we haven't really been coming through," said Trevor Plouffe, who just missed hitting a walk-off home run in the ninth inning on Monday night. "Teams that win games, they hit in those situations."

Valencia 'cares' a little bit more

Speaking of players who could use a spark, third baseman Danny Valencia opened the season with 15 strikeouts, one walk and zero home runs in the team's first 16 games.

His bat came to life on Monday night with a two-run homer off Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester that temporarily put the Twins ahead.

Asked about his impressions of Valencia's season so far, Gardenhire pointed to defense.

"The one thing that we see a lot more of is he really cares about it a little bit more," Gardenhire said. "It affects him. When he comes in and misses a play, before he'd just blow it off and grab his bat. It affects him. He comes and talks about it -- 'What could I have done different?' There's your number one hurdle, is to get a guy to think about defense, and put thought process into it, what he could have done different."

Valencia worked on agility and first-step quickness this offseason, and he appears to be ranging better to his left on some plays.

Still, it's too early to make any judgments. And if Valencia -- hitting .220/.230/.339 -- doesn't start hitting with more consistency, and making plays defensively with more consistency, the Twins do have Sean Burroughs in reserve as a platoon option.

Quick hits

• What was the most impressive part about Monday night's highlight-reel double play turned by Jamey Carroll and Trevor Plouffe? "That we turned it," Gardenhire said. "Really. Because we haven't been doing that very much."

• Outfielder Ben Revere will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester after Tuesday's game to replace Josh Willingham, who will go on paternity leave for at least one game.

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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