MINNEAPOLIS All eyes will be on Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano when he makes his next start Tuesday against Los Angeles. After early-season struggles, Liriano was skipped the last time through the rotation.
But he'll take the hill Tuesday after taking some time off, hoping to turn around his season. After his latest bullpen session Saturday, Liriano sounds refreshed and confident heading into his next start.
"Things are working way better," Liriano said after his bullpen session Saturday, in which he threw about 70 pitches. "I'm throwing the ball down now. I'm throwing strikes. It's only a bullpen, but I feel I'm getting better."
Instead of possibly moving Liriano to the bullpen following his last poor outing, the Twins instead decided to skip him in the rotation and give him time to take a break physically and, perhaps more important, mentally.
"He's feeling good. He says he feels great," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Now it's just wait and see when we get out to Anaheim, how he handles it out on the field. That's all we can do."
Minnesota's rotation has struggled through the first month of the season, and Liriano has been just one part of the problem. But the Twins need Liriano to bounce back and be an effective pitcher like he was in 2010, when he was 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 31 starts. This year, he's 0-3 with an 11.02 ERA in four starts and has walked more batters (13) than he's struck out (12).
With everything that's riding on Tuesday's start, however, Liriano said he's trying not to get into his own head.
"I'm trying not to think about it. I think that will help me," he said. "I'll try not to think about it and just try to do my job and do the best I can. I'll go out there and give everything I have. If it doesn't go the way I wanted it to, at least I tried. I'm not going to go out there thinking I have to pitch well, I'm just going to go out there and do my best."
Guerra impressive in first Triple-A outing: Twins right-handed minor leaguer Deolis Guerra made his first appearance with Triple-A Rochester on Saturday and pitched three scoreless innings in relief. He allowed two hits and walked one while striking out a pair of batters in the Red Wings' game against Buffalo.
Guerra started the season at Double-A New Britain and made seven appearances before being promoted to Rochester. With the Rock Cats, Guerra posted a 0.71 ERA with 15 strikeouts and just one walk in 12 23 innings.
The ball's coming out of his hand. We liked him in spring again, though," Gardenhire said. "When we sent him out, we told him, 'I think you've found your place in baseball here out of the bullpen.' He's more confident. He lets it fly more. He was more comfortable with it. He actually said, 'I really like this.'"
Guerra began his career as a starting pitcher, but was moved to the bullpen last year when he made 27 relief appearances. After Saturday's three-inning outing, Guerra has now had multiple games in which he's pitched more than one inning out of the bullpen.
"That's good. We have to have these guys stretched out," Gardenhire said. "We talked about that a lot with the relievers in Triple-A. Rather than every one of them being a one-inning guy, you have to have guys that are stretched out. ... Pitchers, to develop, need innings. It's hard to develop a guy one inning at a time, a younger pitcher, one inning, one inning, one inning."
Guerra, 23, is the last remaining piece of the Johan Santana trade between the Twins and New York Mets back in 2008. Minnesota acquired Guerra, outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey for Santana.
Perkins OK after falling down stairs: As far as bizarre baseball injuries go, Glen Perkins' recent incident doesn't rank near the top. It was one that kept Perkins out of Friday's game and got a good chuckle out of his teammates, however.
Perkins, the Twins' left-handed setup man, fell down the stairs at his home on Friday morning. He hurt the inside of his left knee in the process and was unavailable out of the bullpen in Friday's game against Kansas City.
After Saturday's game was rained out, Perkins said he was good to go in Sunday's matinee. But he still hasn't been able to escape the jest of others in Minnesota's clubhouse.
"I actually went into the training room to (assistant athletic trainer) Dave (Pruemer) and I said, 'You can't laugh and you can't make fun of me, but I fell down the stairs today and my knee hurts,' " Perkins said Sunday. "He's been making fun of me ever since I told him."
Perkins, one of Minnesota's most prolific tweeters, took to Twitter to make light of the situation: "Yes I fell down the stairs. No I wasn't drinking (10am). Yes I'm ok. Thank you."
Given other fluke injuries in baseball, Perkins knows he came out OK after his tumble down the stairs, all things considered.
"It could have been worse," he said. "Everybody falls down stairs. It happens to the best of us."
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