03/22/08 6:25 PM ET
Sunday start should test Liriano
Twins curious to see whether left-hander's elbow is truly ready
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
"He said, 'OK, I'll stay. I'll do it," Gardenhire said. "The next morning, he had his locker packed and was out the door. His bag was gone and he was gone without saying anything to anybody -- the trainers, not a thank you, not anything."It's not that he had done anything wrong. He had done all of his work, but he was still 10 days away from their projected date. And he told us on the mound, 'I will stay and do this.' Then he was gone. That makes me leery." Gardenhire expressed that his feelings haven't changed on the pitcher throughout this spring. Following Liriano's late arrival to camp due to visa troubles, Gardenhire said he hasn't had enough time to determine whether Liriano has indeed learned to be honest with the team. "I'm sure he's learned, but can I guarantee that? No, I haven't had enough there yet," Gardenhire said. "So I'm still leery when he's throwing. I'm asking Andy, 'Is he letting that ball go?' you know, when he says, 'I feel great.' That's why we are leery and want to wait and see." The Twins have already said they are making subsequent plans should Liriano not show that he's indeed ready. Right-hander Nick Blackburn, who pitched two scoreless innings Saturday, is getting a start this week and the team will try to extend his pitch count to 60-70 pitches in that outing, likely Thursday. That would allow at least one other option to take over Liriano's spot should he start the season in the Minor Leagues. That wouldn't necessarily mean a long delay in Liriano's arrival. Gardenhire said he has already checked the schedules of some Minor League affiliates should the left-hander need a bit of extra time. "If you have to do something where you give him an extra start or two, we could do that," Gardenhire said. "But we have to make sure that he's ready to do these things, because once that season starts, it's not, 'Go and see how he does and we can take him out after two-three innings.' There is a little more at stake than that -- with him and the team." So the mission for Liriano from the coaching staff is pretty simple. "Be accountable for your own actions," Gardenhire said. "Just be accountable, that's what we want him to be, accountable to himself and accountable to us. He has to prove himself to us."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.