Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/7/12
Mlb-rays-twins-jul

Francisco Liriano is pitching better than he has in a long time, and it might just get him traded.

Though the Minnesota Twins are on a roll of sorts, winners of six of eight after beating the Rangers 5-1 Friday in Texas, they don't have the rotation to make it sustainable. In last place all season, they're throwing rookies at the Rangers on Saturday and Sunday, and Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan is looking for teams that might be interested in a pitcher with an expiring contract who can help down the stretch. Like Liriano.

That seemed unlikely in mid-May, when Liriano was demoted to the bullpen after going 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA in six starts. But since being promoted back to the rotation on May 30, Liriano is 3-2 with a 2.74 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings.

What changed?

"I wish there was some big moment where the sun popped out on our heads and it was a bright and shining light, but no," manager Ron Gardenhire said when asked to explain the difference.

Liriano scattered five hits and struck out six Friday in 6 2/3 innings, and though he also walked six, he worked out of jams that would have buried him in April and May. When the Rangers scored on a walk and two singles to start the sixth, for instance, Liriano coaxed Mike Napoli into a 6-4-3 double play with a 94 mph sinking fastball. He then fanned Yorvit Torrealba on five pitches.

"That was huge right there," Liriano said.

Liriano has had electric stuff since breaking into the majors in 2006, when he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA. And even after that season ended with Tommy John surgery, Liriano still had the best stuff on the Twins' staff. Yet he's been able to put it all together again only once, really, when he went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 2010.

His current run is his best since then.

"I hate to say this, but sometimes our brain screws up a lot of things," Gardenhire said. "Rather than just go out and use our God-given ability and winging the baseball up there and letting them try to hit it, we start overthinking situations. I think Frankie's more relaxed now. I think he's not pressing. I think he's learned to take a step back and relax and make a pitch when he has to."

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