Francisco Liriano burst upon the scene in 2006, making the All-Star team for the Twins despite not being in the rotation until the middle of May. I'm not sure if any pitcher has ever or will ever come with the same hype that Stephen Strasburg had, but Liriano came close. He was baseball's pitching darling for a while.
The problem was that when he burst upon the scene, he literally burst upon the scene. There were tendons and labrums everywhere. It was horrific. And Liriano hasn't ever been the same, averaging 135 innings over the past four seasons, with a strikeout rate that's perfectly fine, but certainly not the straight-from-Olympus rate that he maintained in his first two seasons.
So when it comes to a pitcher like that, the best thing for the offseason would be some rest mixed with extensive strength, conditioning, and endurance training, right? Maybe. Or maybe a few more starts are just what the doctor ordered. Literally. Like, maybe a doctor ordered them. As such, Liriano is starting tonight for the Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League.
But don't panic, Twins fans. According to Joe Christensen of the Star-Tribune, Liriano isn't going to be overworked:
Twins GM Terry Ryan said he didn't expect Liriano to pitch winter ball because the Twins wanted to restrict his innings load. Under the new agreement, Liriano will not pitch more than 20 innings for the rest of the Dominican season.
Christensen also notes that Liriano blamed a lack of winter ball last offseason for his shoulder troubles in 2011. Makes sense. Still, I would have thought that Liriano would be the last pitcher in the world who would pitch competitively in the winter.
I think that we can all agree, though, that it's a shame that there isn't a stream of the game. Because I would garrot you and everyone you care about if I could watch Francisco Liriano throw baseballs to a real live hitter right now.