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Twins choose Carl Pavano, not Francisco Liriano, as Opening Day starter

Feb 23, 2011, 2:42 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins starter Pavano pitches to the New York Yankees during the first inning of Game 2 of their MLB ALDS baseball playoffs in Minneapolis

Ron Gardenhire announced this afternoon that Carl Pavano will be Minnesota’s starter on Opening Day, which is noteworthy because the Twins chose Francisco Liriano over Pavano to start Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees just four months ago.

Perhaps picking Pavano for Opening Day has everything to do with his veteran-ness or maybe the Twins went with Liriano in Game 1 of the playoffs mostly because they felt he matched up better specifically against the Yankees, but whatever the case today’s announcement only adds to the recent speculation about the team souring on Liriano.

Last week Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the Twins weren’t interested in signing Liriano to a long-term contract extension despite his being eligible for free agency after 2012 and are opening to trading the 27-year-old left-hander who had a 3.62 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 192 innings last year.

Earlier this week, after Liriano had to push back his first throwing session of spring training due to some minor shoulder soreness, pitching coach Rick Anderson told LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune that Liriano’s lack of offseason training led to the soreness.

Taken individually the reports, speculation, public criticisms, and passing him over for the Opening Day start may not seem like much, but together they certainly paint the picture of a team frustrated with their young ace or perhaps not even looking deep enough at his performance to realize that he’s actually their ace. Ultimately everyone in the rotation is going to start 32-34 times as long as they stay healthy, so the Opening Day assignment isn’t especially meaningful, but in this case it definitely adds more fuel to the Liriano fire.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Feb 23, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    I’m gonna get uyf and others mad at me all over again, but I would’ve liked Pavano as #4 or #5 over the chances of whatever “low-risks” we’ve thrown spring training at.
    Hey guys- Who is doing the opening day of expedition- Bartolo Colon. I think he could be the best of the bunch, podners.

    • uyf1950 - Feb 23, 2011 at 2:57 PM

      You won’t get me mad. Everyone has a right to their option. Even if it’s wrong. Just kidding my friend. Everyone on these boards should know how I feel about Pavano and that will never, never change.

    • uyf1950 - Feb 23, 2011 at 3:00 PM

      Yankeesfanlen – I forgot to mention just now. Why sign the useless, lying sack of dog poop Pavano when The Yankees if they want to can make a trade for the much younger, better, lefty Liriano around the trade deadline, when the Twins try and move him.

      • yankeesfanlen - Feb 23, 2011 at 3:05 PM

        All we can do is what’s possible, timing-wise, and that might work after a while, so we have a chance to wait and see. Maybe we’re okay as we are anyway.

    • bigharold - Feb 23, 2011 at 4:08 PM

      “… but I would’ve liked Pavano as #4 or #5 over the chances of whatever “low-risks” we’ve thrown spring training ….”

      What makes you think Pavano wants to come back? While there is certain logic to what you say the notion was in fact impossible. Cashman brought Vasquez back and it blew up in his face. End of story.

      If he had the nerve to bring Pavano back anything short of him throwing a complete game shutout in his first game would risk real ugliness. Ugliness on an as yet ever seen scale. Imagine he gets hurt in ST, spends a couple of weeks on the DL and then his first appearance, say early May, he goes four innings and gives up six runs. Both he and Cashman would be run out of town on rails, literally.

      Had the Vasquez experiment worked Cashman might have gotten away with resigning Pavano but it didn’t. Every time I image Pavano coming back I keep getting this image of Pavano and Cadshman running across Macomb’s Dam Bridge being chased by a mob with pitchforks and torches. No chance to end well even if he pitched decent.

  2. uyf1950 - Feb 23, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    I guess there are more legs to that story/theory that the Twins are not interested in keeping Liriano around at least not long term.

  3. JBerardi - Feb 23, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    The Twins can’t really be this dumb, can they?

  4. isjonlesteratoptenpitcherinthemlb - Feb 23, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    Wow, just a terrible and unjustified article, so bad that I may in fact print this out just so I can clean up my dog’s crap on our walk tonight.

    No mention about how there has been issues in the past with Liriano getting too amped up for “big/imnportant” starts?
    No mention about how the Twins almost always give the nod to the veteran on opening day?

    Sorry to break it to you, but this isn’t some passive aggressive swipe at Liriano, the Twins aren’t run by 15 year old girls or Hank Steinbrenner.

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 23, 2011 at 3:39 PM

      Although, some players DO act like 15 year-olds (no reason to single out girls here) and/or Hank Steinbrenner. The question here is: Is Liriano one of them? If so, does he take it personally and react publicly?

      Also, Aaron’s comments on this have been fair in the sense that there is reason to question what the Twins are thinking with respect to Liriano, given the reasons above. As a non-Twins fan, I’m happy they don’t place Liriano so high in their minds (at least that’s what it seems like to me) b/c that means he’ll possibly be playing for someone I do root for. Liriano is awesome is what I’m sayin’.

      • isjonlesteratoptenpitcherinthemlb - Feb 23, 2011 at 3:42 PM

        The answer to your question is no.

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 23, 2011 at 4:04 PM

        Fair enough and I would tend to agree with you. That said, I do agree with Aaron’s inference that the Twinkies, for whatever reasons, are not happy with Liriano and I think they’ll move him. If I were a Twins fan, I’d demand some reasoning for this move since he is definitely their best pitcher.

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 23, 2011 at 4:08 PM

        Further, if they don’t plan to move him why are they publicly calling him out for not being conditioned enough when he arrived at camp OR saying they are not interested in a contract extension? How does that help? Doesn’t that raise a red flag to all other teams that he is trade bait?

    • thinman61 - Feb 23, 2011 at 4:04 PM

      “No mention about how there has been issues in the past with Liriano getting too amped up for ‘big/imnportant’ starts?”

      Ooh. Because something like that would never be an issue in the AL East. 😉

      • isjonlesteratoptenpitcherinthemlb - Feb 23, 2011 at 4:07 PM

        “I think they’ll move him. If I were a Twins fan, I’d demand some reasoning for this move since he is definitely their best pitcher.”

        The assistant GM Rob Antony came out yesterday and said flat out that the Twins have had zero talks in moving Liriano. Even Joe C, somewhat backed down from his original statement.

  5. Ace - Feb 23, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    Ok, does someone want to tell the Twins that Liriano had the 4th highest WAR amongst AL pitchers last year? Which basically means that unless you’re putting the likes of Lee, Verlander, or Hernandez out there on opening day, Liriano damn well better be your number one starter. As for the veteran thing, well sure, Pavano is older. But Liriano has a much longer tenure with the club, which you’d think would count for something. This whole thing is mind-boggling.

  6. mordecofe - Feb 23, 2011 at 3:50 PM

    As a White Sox fan, the fewer times Liriano pitches, the better, even if it only saves one start.

    • isjonlesteratoptenpitcherinthemlb - Feb 23, 2011 at 3:57 PM

      Leave it to a white sox fan to fail at basic math, Liriano will still get the same number of opps to start as he would have as the #1

      • mordecofe - Feb 23, 2011 at 5:30 PM

        Yeah, if anyone fails at basic math it’s you. It’s common sense that whoever gets the first start will possibly have one or more starts than then rest of the starters. The pitcher who starts the second game will also have more chances to start, even if just one, than the pitcher who starts the third game.

        Sure, they get a chance to reset the rotation at the ASB, and there are chances to skip the 5th starter, but that doesn’t affect the fundamental idea that the opening day starter might get at least one, if not more, starts than the other starters.

        What’s with you and the grudge against Liriano? Don’t take everything so personally.

  7. ThatGuy - Feb 23, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    None issue, Twins will always give the ball on opening day to their veteren(if they have one). In 2004 and 2005 the Twins gave the ball to Brad Radke over Johan Santana even though Johan was coming off a top 10 Cy finish both years(7th in 03, 1st in 04′). Anyone that didn’t see this coming, doesn’t know the Twins. Which is why i’m surprised you did not see it coming Aaron.

    • Ace - Feb 23, 2011 at 4:27 PM

      The Radke thing made a lot more sense though, because he had been with the team for a decade by then. It was a slightly sentimental nod to a lifelong Twin who had given them a career’s worth of solid pitching. Pavano has been a Twin since August ’09.

    • dluxxx - Feb 23, 2011 at 5:11 PM

      Radke had a stretch where he had 9 of a possible 10 starts for the opener. It more like a tradition than a snub to Santana.

  8. pmcenroe - Feb 23, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    I dont think giving Pavano the opening day nod is out of character for Gardy at all. With that said, the Twins aren’t stupid so unless Duensing is the 2nd coming of Sandy Koufax, Lirano isn’t going anywhere before the trade deadline. With the Twins recent history of strong finishes they will have to be really out of the race before they deal him.

    • ThatGuy - Feb 23, 2011 at 4:01 PM

      Exactly, those thinking Liriano is going anywhere this season are nuts. He is under their control for a season after this. They won’t trade him until they have a reasonable idea what they have from Gibson and Wimmers. Maybe next offseason, or prob. during the season if he is not in their long term plans. But it won’t happen this season.

  9. dluxxx - Feb 23, 2011 at 5:07 PM

    I’m guessing that Frankie will be #3 in the rotation, setting him up for the home opener at Target Field.

    • dluxxx - Feb 23, 2011 at 5:15 PM

      Of course that would also mean he wouldn’t pitch agains the Yankees in their first series, which wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense either… Whatever, I just want baseball to start again.

  10. twodub - Feb 23, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    People are getting way too worked up over Joe C’s original article/speculation. The Twins aren’t trading Liriano right now, the Twins control his contract this year and next. That, along with his injury history, his delivery, and his mental makeup (doesn’t handle big spots well) is why they didn’t sign him long term, after one good season returning from Tommy Johns. He definitely can have his dominant streaks, but he needs those to outweigh his horrible days when he has ridiculous meltdowns.
    Baker was the Opening road starter last year, Pavano the home starter last year, there isn’t any controversy that Liriano isn’t the Opener. He’s not a pressure situation, all-eyes-on-me, ready-to-elevate-my-performance-in-the-spotlight type of guy. So as a Twins fan, I am glad he’s not the Opener.

    • uyf1950 - Feb 23, 2011 at 8:57 PM

      I swear if I didn’t know better I would think you were describing Carl Pavano. Injury history, etc.. when was the last time Pavano pitched is a critical pressure situation and had success? In each of the last 2 season he has for the most part pitched poorly the last 6 weeks of each season. The last 2 post seasons 13 innings pitched 6 earned runs. Not exactly the numbers of a pitcher accustomed to success in high pressure situations.

      • twodub - Feb 23, 2011 at 10:43 PM

        I wasn’t implying Pavano was any of those things, merely stating why the Twins didn’t sign Liriano long term this offseason, which has caused so much unnecessary speculation.
        Liriano has had a history of not dealing with any form of pressure well, I don’t mean just playoffs, or opening day spots, but regular games as well.
        Using Pavano’s performance in playoffs isn’t gonna make Liriano look any better as he’s reppin 7.2 innings pitched with 5 earned runs in the last 2 post seasons. Liriano gets shook easy, only takes one little thing to totally derail him. I like Liriano, but when you watch every one of his starts, you’ll see that the numbers don’t tell the whole story with him.
        And lastly, I don’t see Opening Day as a big pressure situation. Over hyped, yes. I don’t think Pavano feels the pressure in that start, whereas Liriano would, that’s the difference.

  11. macjacmccoy - Feb 24, 2011 at 6:59 AM

    I dunno Cole Hamels probably hates not being the opening day guy. He got pushed back in 07 and 08 because of Brett Meyers seniority even though Cole was clearly better but was told he would get his time. He finally got it in 09 but then they go out and get Halladay in 2010 and Lee in 2011 and they aint going no where so hes pretty much screwed. He probably hates those year he had to be patient bc it didnt turn out how he expected.

  12. schrutebeetfarms - Feb 24, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Anyone who thinks that Liriano was the Twins ace last year wasn’t watching the Twins daily. Pavano carried that staff. If the Twins wanted to use their question mark bullpen immediately, they would have started Liriano, watch him struggle through 4 2/3 innings and then patchwork the rest of the game.

    The bigger question is that since Pavano has Butera as his personal catcher, will Mauer be sitting out opening day? That would make total sense if opening day for the Twins was a Sunday.

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