Archive for April 26th, 2008

Welcome Back, Francisco

It’s official: The Cisco Kid, Francisco Liriano, is returning to the Bus Leagues.

Liriano was sent to Triple-A Rochester before Friday night’s game at Texas, and it was not a surprise. He gave up six runs and got only two outs on Thursday against Oakland, his latest failure to find the strike zone in a return from reconstructive elbow surgery.

“He knew he needed to improve. It wasn’t a shocker to him,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He saw where he was at and he knows he’s got work to do. Maybe he can clear his head, get after it down there and get back up here.”

Eleven days was all it took for the Twins to realize that Liriano was not progressing as well as they had hoped following his 2006 elbow surgery.  He failed to work more than five innings in any of his three starts, capped by an awful outing on Thursday: 2/3 of an inning, six runs, five hits, three walks, no strikeouts.  For the season, half of the batters he has faced (28-of-56) have reached base via hit or walk.  His ERA+ stands at 37.

As seen above, Minnesota’s management doesn’t seem to feel that this is a physical problem, but a mental one.  In all likelihood, Liriano is just having some trouble shaking off the rust that accumulates during a lengthy rehab such as the one he endured in 2007.  It takes some time to get everything working in concert again, including the physical AND mental approach.  In Rochester, he’ll have the opportunity to figure it all out.

It’s Never Too Late To Learn A Knuckleball

It’s embarassing, really, to be one of the writers for a blog about minor league baseball – a writer who has taken it upon himself to follow the numerous independent leagues this season – and to realize after checking your RSS feed that you have been beaten to the punch (by seven hours) on a pretty cool little story.  Damn you, Will Leitch!

Here’s the deal: the American Association’s St. Paul Saints, an organization that is presided over by the legendary Mike Veeck (of the legendary Baseball Veecks), planned on holding two days of open tryouts this week.  Mother Nature did not approve of the schedule ahead of time, however, and both days ended up being cancelled. 

This might have been enough to convince most people that it just wasn’t their day and they should consider postponing the dream until the next time the Saints offered such an opportunity.  Not Jon Secrist, a 53-year-old knuckleballer who appeared in a couple games for the Saints nine years ago and who would not be denied on this day.  He threw for the manager, George Tsamis, and was rewarded with an invitation to spring training.  26 players will be in camp for the Saints, two of which will be cut before the start of the season.  Two more will be let go after the first week, when the team must drop down to its in-season limit of 22.

What we have here is a walking, breathing example of what makes the independent leagues so great.  Only in that environment can a guy who is two years away from earning the senior discount at McDonald’s walk onto the field and impress the coaching staff enough to receive even a chance at making the team.  It’s not happening in Pawtucket, or Greenville, or Albuquerque.  But in St. Paul?  “We like the way you throw and you’re a great story.  Come on down to spring training and we’ll see what happens.”  You’ve gotta admit, that’s pretty cool.

Photo: St. Paul Saints