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Updated: September 22nd, 2010 11:18am
Playoff rotation set: Francisco Liriano named Game 1 starter

Playoff rotation set: Francisco Liriano named Game 1 starter

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Just hours after the Minnesota Twins clinched the American League Central title, manager Ron Gardenhire officially named Francisco Liriano as his number one starter heading into the ALDS.

Liriano will start Game 1, against either the Tampa Bay Rays or the New York Yankees, and he will be followed by Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing, and if they choose to use a fourth pitcher, Nick Blackburn.

"Liriano's been throwing good, you split up the lefties," Gardenhire said. "Put Pav right in the middle of 'em."

"Pav knows what he's doing, and Liriano, this is going to be his first shot at it, but with his stuff, electric stuff, he can go out and if he gets on a roll he can dominate a team. And knowing that you have the next guy coming in, Pav, who kind of controls everything, it's a good situation to have. We'll see where (we) go with Liriano (in game one), and Pav can probably settle the ship down or add on."

Regarding the notion that Liriano sometimes gets excited and/or nervous for big games -- a perception that is generally overstated, considering he has a 2.67 ERA with 30 strikeouts, four walks and zero home runs allowed in 27 innings against the Yankees, Rays and Rangers this season -- Gardenhire said, "Does it matter if it's Game 1 or Game 2 that he gets excited in?"

"I think either he's going to handle it or not handle it. Whether it's game 1 or game 2, he'll have plenty of time to prepare up to that point for him."

Gardenhire said the rotation could still change in the final two weeks leading up to the playoffs, which leaves the door open for Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey.

But when asked if anything outside of injury will impact the playoff rotation, the manager said, "No, I mean we pretty much think this is the right thing right now."

"But I guess anything could happen. If a guy goes out and gets whacked a couple times in a row, it might make you think twice about it. But I look for guys to step up and keep doing what they're doing."

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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