FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Francisco Liriano’s fast start to the spring slowed Tuesday.
The streaky lefty got hit hard, giving up four runs in the third inning as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins 8-2.
Coming off a season in which he went 9-10 with a 5.08 ERA and pitched a no-hitter, Liriano had allowed only two hits and no runs while striking out seven in his first two exhibition outings.
But Travis Snyder and Travis d’Arnaud hit consecutive two-run doubles off the right-field fence against Liriano, quickly bringing back flashbacks to last year’s struggles.
“Franky just got some balls up and got whacked,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He got some pitches up. He couldn’t get it where he wanted it.”
Liriano has alternated promising years with disappointing ones since going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA in 2006, his first full-season as a starter.
“I tried to go too hard, and made a couple of mistakes,” Liriano said. “My fastball was working pretty good, and my slider was working pretty good, and like I said, I made a couple of mistakes, doing too much and rushing.”
Meanwhile, Toronto got an encouraging three innings from starter Brett Cecil, who slumped to 4-11 last year after going 15-7 with a 4.22 ERA in 2010. The left-hander gave up one hit through three scoreless innings, striking out two and walking two.
“That’s the best I’ve felt in spring training,” Cecil said. “Got out of my delivery once, kind of slipped, but other than that, it was a pretty good day.”
Cecil attributes his slump last season to a poor work ethic, something he has worked hard to correct this spring.
“I kind of took it for granted subconsciously, I think, not doing the extra stuff I should have been doing,” Cecil said. “That’s basically it, and I got kicked in the butt for it. (I’m) getting after it a little bit harder than last year and even 2010. I take it a little bit more seriously, and did those extra things. So far it’s paying off.”
Liriano has also been working hard. The pitcher seemed to think, in fact, that maybe he’s pushing too hard.
Liriano struck out three of the first four batters he faced, but everything started to fall apart in the third inning before he settled down and got the final two outs.
He had a spirited chat with bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek during the game.
“He just told me to step back and calm down and relax, try to hit your spot and try not to overthrow,” Liriano said. “Can’t get mad at myself like that, so he was trying to calm me down.”
Twins catcher Joe Mauer, the former American League MVP who is trying to find his swing after a disappointing year recovering from knee surgery, had two hits. He was hitting only .200 through six games before Tuesday.
Adeiny Hechavarria and Jonathan Diaz each had two hits for Toronto.
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