The Return of Liriano

Categories: MLB

Pre-game: The Kansas City forecast calls for 45 degrees, following a series of early-morning flurries. At approximately 1:10 p.m., Francisco Liriano will make his first MLB start in nearly twenty months following Tommy John surgery. In recent days, AAA Rochester manager Stan Cliburn, prior to learning that "The Franchise" would be called up to start, told reporters that he didn't feel Liriano was quite ready for the task, following the lefty's bulky 7.56 ERA in two minor league starts.

But ready or not ... Hell, from my vantage, it's time to remove the kid gloves and replace them with spit and leather. Personally, I'm all for patience when it comes to injury =- but in this instance, the time is now. Twenty months is considered to be at the longer end of waiting periods between MLB starts following Tommy John, and given that the club has won three straight to ascend the .500 mark at 6-5 (without our bats really going yet), let's keep the mojo moving, I say, ride the early wave, and enjoy what days we have with a winning mark before the tide of Detroit, the White Sox, Boston, Toronto, and Colorado provides the undertow to begin May.

What we should focus on today is not so much the proverbial End, and opposed to the Means. Countless hours, away from the Big Stage, have been spent refining Liriano's delivery. If he goes 5 today and gives up three or four runs, that's fine. It's how he looks in doing so that we should be mindful of.

Considering such intense magnification of mechanics, I thought it wise to revisit some recent reading I'd done on the great Sandy Koufax's opinions (from Jane Leavy's A Lefty's Legacy) as pertaining to proper pitching mechanics. Here area few excerpts of what another legendary southpaw had to say:

"Everybody who performs an athletic event of any kind is a system of levers. You can't alter what the bones do. If you can make the bones work, the injuries to the soft tissue will be a lot less. It's when guys are in a bad position and now they try to make the muscles do something to compensate for the bad position that they injure themselves . . . You gotta do what the bones do."

Today, should those aforementioned countless hours of behind-the-scenes work a have paid off, we should look for the following from Liriano's delivery:

-A slight turn and torque in his initial motion
-Followed by his upper body out over his leg just after release
-Concluded with a less-violent body crossover to complete the deliver

Such information was gleaned, in part, from a great article/diagram by the Pi Press' Kelsie Smith in a recent piece on Liriano and pitching coach Rick Anderson, although I also feel confident in identifying -- based on my own baseball background -- that the 2006 version of Liriano, while brilliant, was also flawed in that he was employing too much upper-body versus leg power, and that his barbaric finish, while offering flair and intimidation, lacked the polish required for the long and prosperous career we collectively envision for such a rare talent.

To further illustrate the "old" Liriano, here is some video of him in his 2006 form:

Postgame: The Twins lost Liriano's return 5-1, and the lefty's line worked out in the following form:

IP H R ER BB SO HR
4.2 6 4 4 5 4 0

But still, I felt we saw some of the things we needed to view to feel confident in his return to the Bigs. While the 5 walks were sticky, his 4 K's stood out, as did his overall body language on the mound. He appeared neither nervous, nor apprehensive, tossing his slider with some authority, and battling a few Royals in what became victorious showdowns for the good guys.

As per the aforementioned mechanics, I didn't really pick up on much of a change in the onset of his motion, although I think it was readily apparent that the follow-through was far more tame than what we saw in '06. This is a good sign, maybe a great one for things to come, as that finish was most seemingly the onus of the ligament issues. This "new" finish appeared far gentler on the young man's body, had some newfound polish, and was, at times, quite effective.

All great journeys (or re-routes) require some kind of beginning.

Here's a photo of Liriano from today:

Liriano%202.jpg


Blogger's Note: I'll make haste in concluding my report on Mexican prospect Jorge Gomez Luis Rivas Gomez. After seeing him toss for close to an hour -- I extended the portly, albeit largely talented unknown a contract for which my betters at C.P. had provided authority. For legal purposes, I cannot divulge dollar amount. Yet, although the money was earnest, Gomez declined, insisting that a codicil be added in which he would be allowed take Diablo Cody out for dinner. After a series of heated calls back to the States, I ultimately swam back to my hotel that night with my lovely assistant, leaving Gomez' unsigned contract floating aimlessly with the unchained tides of the Pacific . . ..


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