May 10, 2012, 10:15 AM EDT
Earlier this week Ron Gardenhire insisted that the Twins would stick with Francisco Liriano as a starter, but last night the team announced that the left-hander would be shifting to the bullpen after beginning the season 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA.
Apparently the new plan is to get him back on track for an eventual return to the rotation with some low-leverage relief work. Liriano took some very small steps forward in his last two starts, but has been mostly terrible since last season and it would be worth seeing what he can do in a one-inning role before free agency beckons this offseason.
Liriano was the best, most dominant pitcher in baseball as a 22-year-old rookie in 2006, but Tommy John surgery followed after 16 starts. He returned with much lesser raw stuff, but still managed to be a fantastic starter in 2010. That success vanished as well and since then Liriano has a 5.81 ERA and 133/94 K/BB ratio in 161 innings.
Liriano has been bad enough for long enough that trying to salvage some value out of him with a move to the bullpen is perfectly reasonable, but replacing him with 27-year-old Triple-A right-hander P.J. Walters isn’t likely to actually keep more runs off the board. Walters has a 7.24 ERA with 12 homers allowed in 51 innings as a big leaguer, averaged just 88.0 miles per hour with his fastball during that time, and has a 4.51 ERA in 91 career starts at Triple-A.