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Updated: April 27th, 2012 10:02am
Other teams are expected to monitor Liriano; Twins discussing Inge

Other teams are expected to monitor Liriano; Twins discussing Inge

by Phil Mackey
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The 7.09 ERA posted by the Minnesota Twins starting rotation through the first three weeks of the season is 1.36 runs higher than the next-worst staff, the New York Yankees (5.73).

Only six starting rotations have ERAs over 4.50, and it's possible the Twins' 5-14 record would be closer to .500 right now if the starters were just bad -- instead of really, really bad.

The pitcher currently underachieving the most is Francisco Liriano, but the Twins might not be the only team waiting for the left-hander to straighten things out.

When Liriano returns to the starting rotation on Tuesday in Los Angeles against the Angels, the Florida Marlins are expected to have a scout in attendance to monitor the left-hander, according to a person in the know.

And it shouldn't be surprising to hear about more teams eventually showing interest in buying low on what was once one of the best left arms in baseball as recently as last summer.

Liriano has allowed five earned runs in each of his first four starts this season (11.02 ERA), walking 13 and striking out only 12 in 16 1/3 innings. The Twins elected to skip his spot in the rotation this week and instead have him throw two bullpen sessions in an effort to clear his head.

On Tuesday Liriano said he is 'probably thinking too much, probably trying to overthrow, trying to do too much, trying to be too perfect sometimes."

He added, "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."

On the surface, the Marlins -- despite a 7-11 start -- wouldn't seem to be in desperate need for starting pitching with Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Zambrano and Ricky Nolasco combining for a 3.23 ERA and only 2.28 walks per nine heading into Friday.

But teams are certainly aware that Liriano, a free agent at the end of the year, is a prime trade candidate, because the Twins are unlikely to offer him the one-year, $12.4 million contract required to be eligible for draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

Twins will discuss Inge

According to a league source, the Twins have already started gathering information on infielder Brandon Inge, who was released on Thursday by the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers are on the hook for Inge's entire $5.5 million salary this season, but any team that signs him would likely pay a prorated league-minimum salary.

In 323 plate appearances since the beginning of last year, Inge, 34, is hitting just .190/.255/.284 with four home runs. He played 43 innings at second base for the Tigers in April and is still regarded as an above-average defensive third baseman.

The Twins' struggling starting rotation (7.09 ERA) could use help turning batted balls into outs, and Inge could provide a steady glove in a part-time role.

It's also worth noting that manager Ron Gardenhire has always been an admirer of Inge.

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