Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/30/12

The Minnesota Twins have been trying to be patient with Francisco Liriano, giving him a chance to work out his struggles in the bullpen in hopes that he would regain enough confidence to overcome his command problems and get back in the rotation.

Liriano proved Wednesday afternoon why the Twins have been willing to give him so much rope.

In six shutout innings during a 4-0 win over the Oakland Athletics, the 28-year-old left-hander showed all the stuff he has when he's at his best: a mid-90s fastball, a wipeout slider and a darting changeup. Making his first start since May 7, Liriano threw a pedestrian 51 of his 88 pitches for strikes, but he walked just two hitters, battling back from 2-0 and 3-0 counts for two of his nine strikeouts.

"We need him in the rotation," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The story's been told too many times of how good his stuff is. He's got to go out and get it done. Today was a good start, and we'll work on it."

Liriano is a free agent after the season, and he could be a prime trade candidate for the Twins this July. But whether they're trying to move him or keep him, they him to be at his best. Liriano won 14 games for the Twins in 2010, when they won the AL Central, and his drop-off last season was one of the main factors in the Twins' slide to a 63-99 record. Liriano went 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA in 2011, and he was 0-5 with an 8.47 ERA in 11 games (six starts) this season before Wednesday.

He will pitch again next week in Kansas City, and he could give the Twins a lift during a year in which they've already shuttled through nine different starting pitchers.

"I told myself before the game, this is a start from today," Liriano said. "Everything that happened in the past, I've just got to put it behind me and move forward."

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