Following a disastrous outing against Oakland Thursday in which he allowed 6 earned runs and walked 3 batters in only 2/3 of an inning, the Twins have sent Francisco Liriano to the minors to get his act together. The lefty phenom has been awful since making his return to the majors April 13th following Tommy John Surgery, going 0-3 with a 11.32 ERA and 2.71 WHIP over 3 starts. In 10 1/3 innings, Liriano has allowed 13 earned runs and 13 walks while only striking out 7.
This is a tough pill to swallow for Liriano owners, many of whom rolled the dice on the lefty stud fairly early in the draft hoping he would return to his dominant 2006 form. While Liriano has indeed been awful in his first 3 outings, fantasy owners must realize that he has not pitched at the Major League level in nearly a year and a half and these struggles are to be expected.
Command has been Liriano's biggest issue. In his first three 2008 outings, he has walked more than a batter an inning and failed to put up significant strikeout totals. Liriano is having trouble locating his fastball and has been unable to put his best pitch, a Santana-esque changeup, where he wants it. Further, the velocity on his fastball has been down around 90-91 MPH as opposed to the mid-90's heat he threw consistently before TJ surgery. This lack of juice on his fastball also serves to hurt the effectiveness of his change up.
No one knows for sure how much time Liriano will spend in the minors; could be a month or even longer. A loss of command is a common and correctable problem amongst pitchers returning from TJ surgery as is loss of velocity. These issues can normally be fixed with repetition and Liriano will get ample time to work on his mechanics and build up strength in a low pressure atmosphere in the minors.
Barring injury, Liriano will certainly be back in the majors at some point in the season and thus it is in the best interest of his owners to try to work out a way to stash him until he returns. The difficulty in this is that unless your league offers minor league roster spots, Liriano would have to be placed on the bench in your active roster as he is ineligible to fill a DL spot.
Remember Liriano owners, it is only April and while having an unavailable pitcher on your roster may limit you a bit in the short-term, he could be a big difference maker come the second half of the season. Two words: Stash Him.
As for the rest of you, this demotion to the minors has made Liriano the top buy low candidate out there right now. Savvy owners should be looking to make a deal for the 24 year old for 40 cents on the dollar while you still have the chance.