MINNEAPOLIS -- Ten games into their season, the Twins are on a high after taking series' from three contenders (Angels, White Sox and Red Sox) and winning their first three series for the first time in a season since 1987.
But if Thursday's 8-0 win was a potential glimpse of lefty Francisco Liriano's 2010 season, the best might be yet to come.
Liriano, coming off of a 5-13 season while returning from Tommy John ligament transfer surgery, shut out Boston for seven innings in an 8-0 Twins romp and showed a repertoire that could become one of the Twins' most lethal weapons.
"If he can get back to the Liriano everyone keeps saying he was, he's going to be real big for us," Twins center fielder Denard Span said.
In holding Boston to four hits and striking out eight over his seven innings, Liriano threw 96 pitches. What the Twins liked best was that he relied on catcher Joe Mauer and threw his fastball often early, saving his slider for later. Last year, he often didn't trust his fastball and relied too heavily on his slider.
"We've talked all along," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "I've told him, 'That slider is your out pitch, but if you overuse it early, it's not going to be an out pitch. If you keep it in your back pocket, they'll swing at it later in the game.'"
Liriano threw a filthy slider to Kevin Youkilis for a called strike three in the first inning -- plate umpire Tim Tschida might have been a bit generous -- but saved many of the 26 sliders he wound up throwing until later in his outing.
The key with Liriano using his fastball is that it can open up the other side of the plate for him. His hard-biting slider sinks quickly down-and-in to right-handed hitters. By throwing his fastball to the other side of the plate, it keeps hitters from guarding one side of the plate.
When Liriano went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA as a rookie in '06 before his elbow injury, his slider was one of the nastiest pitches in the game.
"I can always remember facing him and going, wow," says Twins designated hitter Jim Thome, who was with the White Sox in '06. "For me, he was one of the toughest left-handers I've seen. Randy Johnson, in his prime. ... Liriano, with his slider, was the same feeling. You'd have to bear down."
Anderson thinks Liriano's slider is "close" to what it was in '06.
"It's pretty good," the pitching coach said. "It's got that late bite back. Last year, you didn't see as many swings and misses."
This year, if Liriano continues to gain confidence, look out.
One last thought on the Twins' beautiful new Target Field: While there are several gorgeous parks around that are still fairly new -- the parks in San Francisco and Pittsburgh come to mind -- nobody has done as an impressive a job of incorporating club history into the park as the Twins.
From naming the gates after players whose jerseys are retired (Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett, to name two) to the countless photos and memorabilia stations throughout the park to the dozens of old Sports Illustrated covers, media guide covers and yearbook covers decorating the press box, lunch room and concourses, the Twins set the standard.
It extends down to the clubhouse, where Puckett and two-time World Series-winning manager Tom Kelly are represented with class -- in quotes.
On one end of the clubhouse, above a door leading to the trainer's room, an eerie and poignant Puckett quote is spelled out in silver letters on a blue wall: "Live for today. Tomorrow isn't promised to anyone."
At the other end of the clubhouse, above a door leading toward the tunnel that takes the Twins to the field, there's this Kelly quote: "We're all in this boat together. Everybody grab an oar."
Funny, the most-heard phrase around Target Field and Minneapolis this week as everyone has been talking/worrying about/fretting over the weather has been this: "Don't worry, when Joe Mauer comes to bat, the sun will come out."
Likes: Denard Span's mother was not at the Target Field opening, but it's not because she's feeling ill effects from when she was hit by a foul ball lined by her son in Tampa the final week of the exhibition season. She's good," Span says. "She was mad I came out of the game. I brought 20 family members to that game. It was an eventful week. She was sore for a couple of days." The reason Denard's mother wasn't here? She didn't trust the Twin Cities weather. "She's coming in May," Span says. Good plan for a Florida native, though the weather here this week is tremendous. ... The Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. She could always turn the world on with her smile. ... Café Latte on Grand Ave. in St. Paul. The Tres Leche cake is phenomenal. ... Adele's Frozen Custard in Excelsior. Might even be better than the Tres Leche cake.
Dislikes: Early morning flights.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Who can turn the world on with her smile?
"Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
"Well it's you girl, and you should know it
"With each glance and every little movement you show it
"Love is all around, no need to waste it
"You can have a town, why don't you take it
"You're gonna make it after all"
-- Paul Williams, Love is All Around