"I just got a report that he's throwing the living fire out of the ball down in the Dominican (Republic). He threw eight innings the other day, and his fastball was 92 to 94 (mph) and his slider was filthy. That's a really good thing, because he can be the bonus if we can get him on track."
Gardenhire's quote supports Liriano's impressive stat line from the Dominican Winter League. Through three starts, Liriano has thrown 11 2/3 innings, given up two runs and has struck out 17 batters. But the most important number people are looking at are his walks allowed, which is two.
Liriano expects to fight for the final rotation spot in Spring Training. As of right now, Anthony Swarzak, Jeff Manship, Brian Duensing and Glen Perkins will also compete for the same spot with Perkins and Duensing expecting to be his biggest competition.
The Twins have several starting pitchers in the system with bright futures but Liriano may have the best shot at becoming an ace. That may be hard to believe after he finished last season with an ugly 5-13 record and 5.80 ERA, but the silver lining was that he increased his velocity and made improvements with his slider and change-up. Liriano's main problem was that he struggled throwing strikes, primarily with his fastball which may have been the least effective pitch in all of baseball last season. Hearing that his fastball was sitting between 92 and 94 mph is great and seeing that he's only walked two batters is even more important.
But Twins fans: beware. There have been several reports that suggest Liriano's turned a leaf just to find out for ourselves that he truly hasn't. Still, any good report is worth noting.