It's been a rough start for Francisco Liriano, but he isn't ready to panic. That's a good sign for the talented left-hander whose confidence deficits have been nearly as debilitating as his arm problems.
Liriano fell to 0-3 with a 9.42 ERA after Tuesday's ugly 10-5 loss to Kansas City.
"It's the third game of the season; I'm just trying to improve and finish stronger," Liriano said. "Everything's good. I don't want to get frustrated; I think it's too early in the season for that."
Manager Ron Gardenhire has never been shy about critiquing Liriano, who burst into the majors with as 12-3, 2.16 rookie season in 2006.
Liriano bounced back from a long Tommy John recovery last season, going 14-10 with a 3.62 earned-run average, a performance that earned him a one-year, $4.3 million contract extension and solidified his spot as the team's No. 2 starter behind Carl Pavano.
But he hasn't been good this season. On Wednesday, he coughed up a 1-0 lead in a six-run, eight-hit fourth inning. The first six batters hit safely, but Gardenhire came to the pitcher's defense.
"I think Frankie had the one bad inning," Gardenhire said. "The ball just seemed to find holes. Nothing was hit really, really hard -- maybe a couple. The balls just kept finding places and kept rolling through. Frustrating inning for him, I'm sure."
Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson have been candid about what they see as Liriano's tendency to overthrow -- and abandon his changeup -- when things don't go well. Gardenhire, in fact, said before the game that the left-hander simply doesn't understand how good his stuff is.
But the manager said Wednesday's breakdown had nothing to do with any of that.
"He was making pitches," Gardenhire said. "The ball was just finding holes -- off the end of the bat, up the middle, jam shot, looped another to right field. I don't think he was trying to overthrow the ball, and he was using all his pitches.
"Unfortunately for him, the runs started spinning around."
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.