Inside Pitch- Liriano To Stay In Bullpen

In this edition of Twins' Inside Pitch, Francisco Liriano is staying in the bullpen despite rotation problems, Rondell White gets his first start in the outfield, Luis Castillo continues to battled knee problems, and much more.

Despite starting pitching problems that lingered into the third week of the season, manager Ron Gardenhire said he has no intention of rushing touted prospect LHP Francisco Liriano into the rotation.

"None whatsoever," he said Friday before the opener of a three-game series at Chicago.

"Absolutely not. You can't go two weeks into the season and all of a sudden go, 'OK, we're firing this guy.' None of our starters have been on a roll, and you have to give them a chance."

As Gardenhire spoke, his vaunted starting rotation -- which produced a 3.93 ERA last year and then returned its top four performers -- had a major-league-worst 6.85 ERA. A few hours later, the Twins had just their third quality start of the season, when ace LHP Johan Santana pitched seven sparkling innings against the White Sox (in a loss).

Even if the Twins wanted to replace somebody in the rotation with Liriano, he hasn't pitched so much as three innings in an appearance yet and isn't ready.

Putting him in the rotation also would cost the Twins their only left-hander in the bullpen, requiring the likely promotion of LHP Dennys Reyes from AAA Rochester before considering a Liriano move. And that, of course, would mean not only moving somebody out of the rotation for Liriano but moving somebody off the roster for Reyes.

Nonetheless, Gardenhire said he expects to stretch out Liriano for a start at some point.


  • OF/DH Rondell White, who was hitting just .127 through 15 games -- and that was after a two-hit effort in game No. 15 -- got his first outfield assignment since he dislocated a shoulder diving for a ball last Aug. 15. White started in left field Friday night in Chicago and handled one fly ball without incident. The short-term move out of the DH role was done to help White get back on track offensively since struggling with his DH job.

  • 2B Luis Castillo's knee injury is becoming a concern for the team after the left knee he aggravated Thursday swelled overnight and caused him to miss Friday's game. Castillo said he might have to sit out the entire weekend series against Chicago -- this after expressing optimism Thursday that he could play through the pain. "Normally he can play through anything, but when he has to sit out, that's when you know he's hurting," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's a little bit scary." Castillo, who's hitting .404 with a .481 on-base percentage, injured the knee last weekend sliding into second base and aggravated it running out an infield grounder Thursday.

  • LF Shannon Stewart missed games Thursday and Friday to return home to Miami for Thursday's birth of his daughter, and the team was awaiting word late Friday as to when Stewart would rejoin the team. Baby Shayla Renee and mother Sharonda were said to be doing well Friday and the hope was Stewart might return in time to play before the end of the weekend series in Chicago.

  • OF/DH Ruben Sierra fouled a ball of his shin seriously enough during Friday's game that his playing status for Saturday was uncertain.

  • LHP Johan Santana (0-3) lost at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday for the first time in almost four years (July 23, 2002) and lost to the White Sox for the first time since July 1, 2004 -- despite pitching seven sparkling innings spoiled only by DH Jim Thome's two-run homer in the sixth inning on a slider down and away. Santana was 4-0, 0.92, against Chicago last year.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 31.4 -- Games per ejection in Ron Gardenhire's managerial career after he got the thumb in Tuesday's ninth inning (660 games, 21 ejections), a pace that would make his next one May 23, against Cleveland, in the fourth inning.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "(Jim) Thome definitely brings a different presence to their ballclub. That's two really big power hitters in the middle of their lineup, with (Paul) Konerko. But they were playing like that last year, too, where you make a mistake and they kill you. And they're not making too many mistakes." -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire after his first look this season at the improved division-rival White Sox (7-1 loss Friday).

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