Pitcher Francisco Liriano, who spent seven of his 14 seasons with the Twins and who at one time appeared to be the second coming of ace Johan Santana, announced his retirement this month. He exits the game at 38 with a career mark of 112-114 with a 4.15 ERA.
What would you say are the top three or so trades in team history? pic.twitter.com/jXW7zHZLCf
— The Twins Almanac (@TwinsAlmanac) November 14, 2021
Liriano came to the Twins as part of a trade long thought to be one of the Twins’ best. In 2003, the Twins sent catcher A.J. Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for three pitchers: Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser. Bonser didn’t amount to much, but Nathan went on to record 377 career saves — 260 of them for the Twins — and Liriano’s early days with the club seemed to foretell greatness. Liriano made a few starts in 2005, then found his form in 2006, finishing the season at 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA. He struck out 144 batters in 121 innings pitched, good enough to have a strikeout rate per nine innings of 10.7, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
The highlight of the season was when Liriano blanked the Brewers over eight innings, allowing only three hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts in an 8-0 win on July 2, 2006.
“We’re just blessed with two great arms,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said about Liriano and Santana to the Minneapolis Star Tribune after the game. “They’re both very nasty lefthanders.”
But nothing can change the hopes and dreams of a young athlete quite like an injury, and so it was for Liriano, who had Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow and missed all of the 2007 season. As noted by MLB Trade Rumors, the surgery “ended the dream before it ever really started.”
Liriano was never the same. He occasionally showed flashes of his old self — he no-hit the Chicago White Sox in 2011 — but largely struggled with the Twins and finally was traded to the White Sox in 2012. He later signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was resurgent again in 2013, winning 16 games with a 3.02 ERA.
Over his 14 seasons he pitched for the Twins, White Sox, Pirates, Blue Jays, Tigers and Astros.
Other career highlights: He was named an all-star and finished third in the Rookie of the Year award vote, finishing behind winner Justin Verlander and Johnathan Papelbon. He also pitched in the 2017 World Series with the Astros.
As good as Liriano was in 2006, it was Santana who won the AL Cy Young award. He went 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 233-plus innings pitched.