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Updated: May 2nd, 2011 10:29pm
Twins Daily: Straightening out Liriano is 'an every-day thing'

Twins Daily: Straightening out Liriano is 'an every-day thing'

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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What once looked like an important early-season series now is a matchup between two teams with the worst records in baseball.

The Chicago White Sox (11-19) have lost five of six. The Minnesota Twins (9-18) have lost six straight. And both teams entered Monday 9.5 and 10 games behind the Cleveland Indians, respectively, in the American League Central standings.

Numbers game

What's wrong with the Twins? Well, everything.

Health watch

• C Joe Mauer (bilateral leg weakness) "is supposedly feeling a lot better" as he continues to rehabilitate shoulder and knee problems on top of rebuilding leg strength, manager Ron Gardenhire told 1500 ESPN on Sunday. There still is no timetable for Mauer to begin his rehabilitation assignment in Florida, though, and Gardenhire isn't ruling out playing him somewhere other than behind the plate. "We've all seen that it's taken a toll on him a little bit here already," Gardenhire said. "We're trying to figure out a plan here as we go along, see how he's feeling. Surely, you'd like him to be able to catch. But if it takes putting him in other positions and doing other things with him to get him on the field and hitting, that's what we're going to do."

• IF Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured left fibula) was scheduled to travel to Florida and begin workouts there. There is no timetable for his return to the lineup, since the team needs to be cautious with Nishioka's comfort level with sliding and taking on the sort of hard slide that injured him. Unless SS Alexi Casilla improves, Nishioka may not return at second base either. "I've already told our trainers that are going to be down there with him that I want him to take ground balls around second, but I want him to take some at shortstop, too," Gardenhire said. "I want another option."

• OF Delmon Young (sore left oblique) likely will be sent to Florida this week for a rehab assignment, too.

• DH Jim Thome (general soreness) has missed five of the Twins' past six games, but the Twins have yet to make a roster move.

• RHP Kevin Slowey (right shoulder strain) threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings for Class-A Fort Myers on Monday night, striking out three and allowing only two hits. "It's really tough to not have him in there," Gardenhire said, "but you can't go with a six-man rotation, I don't believe."

On deck

Gardenhire has backed off his suggestion last week that Slowey might enter the starting rotation if Francisco Liriano (1-4, 9.13 earned-run average) struggles again in Tuesday's series opener at U.S. Cellular Field. But it's clear the Twins are getting fed up with Liriano's wavering mechanics and inability to battle through adversity.

"It's an everyday thing, talking to him about it and having meetings with him and showing him video," Gardenhire said. "He just gets in that one little rut part of the game where all of a sudden he gets out of whack and starts flinging it all over the place. We know what we have. We have a guy that can be one of those top-line starters. We've just got to get it out of him."

Liriano's line on Wednesday against Tampa Bay was his worst yet -- seven earned runs on six hits with four strikeouts and four walks over three innings. The 27-year-old's bullpen sessions -- under the close watch of pitching coach Rick Anderson -- largely are under control, Gardenhire said. The issue is that once Liriano "gets a little bit excited, he starts falling off and you'll start seeing his back facing home plate.

"That's something that the player has to understand and get done out on the field," Gardenhire said. "You can't go out there with him and stand there during a game, obviously, and it's a constant working on that."

Liriano historically has scuffled some against the White Sox, too, going 3-3 with a 5.51 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 50 2/3 career innings.

Chicago will counter with right-hander Edwin Jackson (2-3, 5.86), who has failed to complete six innings in three of his past four starts -- a stretch in which he's given up 20 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings and has as many walks (12) as strikeouts. In 26 2/3 career innings against the Twins, he's 1-3 with a 7.76 ERA.

Coming up

• Wednesday: at Chicago White Sox, 1:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (1-4, 5.14) vs. LHP John Danks (0-4, 3.92).
• Thursday: Off.
• Friday: at Boston, 6:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (1-2, 3.16) vs. TBD.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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