End of an era: Twins trade Francisco Liriano to rival White Sox
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano will not make his scheduled start at Target Field on Sunday after all.
The Minnesota Twins traded the left-hander to the division-rival Chicago White Sox late Saturday night -- a move that ends weeks of speculation about Liriano's future.
In return, the Twins received 23-year-old infielder Eduardo Escobar and 23-year-old left-hander Pedro Hernandez.
"I'm not thrilled with trading him within the division obviously," said general manager Terry Ryan about the deal, which wasn't completed until one hour after the Twins' 12-5 win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night.
"I didn't think it was fair to him any longer. He had his name out there and everyone was out there talking about it. I know he was concerned. I didn't want him to go out there (Sunday) for many reasons. That's one, and another is I certainly didn't want him to get hurt. That's the reason. I didn't talk to him directly about his feelings, but I certainly knew about his feelings though. ...
"I waited as long as I wanted to anymore to have go through all of this. For him, to pitch here (Sunday), I'm not sure that would've been fair. If he would've spun one up there and done great or had a stinker, I don't think it would've affected it. When you evaluate guys, when you see what you like you never forget that. If you see a guy have an off outing, you say he had an off outing. They know what they're getting and I know what we're giving up."
It's likely Liriano's first start with the White Sox will come sometime early this week at Target Field against the Twins. He will stay in Minnesota while Chicago finishes a three-game series in Texas.
Since returning to the starting rotation on May 30 after a demotion to the bullpen, Liriano impressed several pitching-hungry teams with a 3.68 ERA and 79 strikeouts to just 29 walks in 66 innings. His only real blemish came -- coincidentally -- against the White Sox last week when he allowed seven earned runs in only 2 2/3 innings.
In his career with the Twins -- spanning back to 2005 and including Tommy John surgery -- Liriano posted a 4.33 ERA with 788 strikeouts in 783 1/3 innings.
The White Sox (55-45) lead the American League Central by 2.5 games over the Detroit Tigers, but they're likely to be without left-hander John Danks (shoulder) for a significant period down the stretch.
Prior to Saturday, the Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves were all believed to be in relatively serious pursuit of Liriano, according to sources. The Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals reportedly had interest in Liriano as well. The White Sox flew under the radar.
"They've been interested," Ryan said. "I think it's safe to say that he's thrown pretty well up until the other time, the last outing. They've seen him a lot. They know what he's capable of doing. That never hurts when people observe, as much as they've seen him. ... But they've been interested. There were many clubs interested in him, as we talked about. Everybody seems to be looking for pitching."
In return, the Twins did land one of Chicago's better prospects, Escobar, who was rated by Baseball America as high as No. 5 in the system two years ago and No. 10 last fall.
Escobar hit .195/.275/.244 in 92 plate appearances for the White Sox this season while playing four different positions, mostly third base. Escobar has played mostly shortstop in the minor leagues and owns a Triple-A batting line of .266/.303/.354 in 536 plate appearances.
Offensively, Baseball America said Escobar "has quick hands at the plate, he has yet to develop the strength or discipline to be an effective hitter. He flashed some pop in the Arizona Fall League after the 2010 season, but it didn't carry over to Triple-A. He has slightly above-average speed but isn't a real basestealing threat."
Escobar is, however, regarded as a top defensive infielder, and the Twins view him as a future starter.
"He can run," Ryan said. "He's got tremendous energy."
In 428 1/3 career minor league innings, Hernandez owns a 3.42 ERA with 360 strikeouts, 78 walks and 32 home runs allowed. He made his major league debut on July 18 against the Boston Red Sox and gave up eight earned runs on 12 hits in four innings.
Hernandez throws a 90-mph fastball, a changeup in the low-80's, a cutter in the mid-80's, and he'll mix in a curveball that sits between 75 and 78 mph.
"He's got enough stuff," Ryan said. "He's got a fastball, slider and a change. ...
"He throws a lot of strikes, which is good. But I'm never going to say he pitches to contact. ... He pitches to get outs."
Both players will be optioned to Triple-A Rochester.
Right-hander P.J. Walters (shoulder) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster.
Brian Duensing will make a spot-start in place of Liriano on Sunday against the Indians. The Twins will play with 24 players until a pitcher is recalled from Rochester for Monday's game against the White Sox.