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FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano missed Minnesota’s first official workout of the spring Friday because of a sore shoulder that he deemed minor.
More serious were the trade rumors abounding about Liriano in the weeks leading up to spring training.
The Twins signed Liriano to a one-year, $4.3 million contract and avoided salary arbitration. He can become a free agent after the season.
Liriano, acquired with Joe Nathan in a November 2003 trade that sent A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco Giants, said he couldn’t envision himself with another team.
“No, not now,” Liriano said. “I’m just happy to be here right now.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is equally glad to have Liriano, one of six candidates to fill the five rotation spots. Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing, Carl Pavano and Kevin Slowey are the others.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people in baseball that would like Liriano. But you didn’t hear anything like that from the Minnesota Twins,” Gardenhire said.
The 26-year-old Liriano missed the 2007 big league season because of reconstructive surgery on his left elbow. He was 12-3 record with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in just 121 innings prior to the injury.
Liriano returned in 2008. He split his time at Triple-A level and with the Twins, where he was 6-4 with a 3.91 ERA in 14 starts.
After going 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA in 2009, he raised expectations last season by going 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA. He struck out 201 in 191 2-3 innings and has set a goal to pitch 200 innings this season.
“He’s one of the best starting pitchers,” Gardenhire said. “He’s one of those top-of-the-line guys that has some pitches that blow people away. That’s always valuable. That’s why we signed him. Luckily, we didn’t have to go to arbitration with him.
“He’s getting better and better. Now it’s just about keeping him healthy. He has had a little bit of a setback, but the doctors say it happens when you throw a ball a lot early,” he said. “We’ll just back him off a little bit, then we’ll get him going.”
Gardenhire and Liriano each said the shoulder soreness was not a concern.
Liriano threw about 12 bullpen sessions over the past six weeks, which may have contributed to the soreness, he said. Liriano said it had nothing to do with the elbow surgery.
“I think I’m kind of past that,” Liriano said. “Nothing is really bothering right now.”
NOTES: Catcher Joe Mauer was limited in work Friday because of soreness in his left knee. “Once we get to the games, we’ll mix it up when we have to and get him out there playing,” Gardenhire said. … 1B Justin Morneau has not been cleared to play in games yet. He does not have to report to camp until Feb. 21 with the rest of the position players. Morneau missed 73 games last season after suffering a concussion July 7 in Toronto. “Before he can get out onto a baseball field, he will have to be cleared by his doctor,” Gardenhire said. “The last step is getting him cleared to play games.”
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