There were several encouraging things today about Francisco Liriano’s performance in the two innings he pitched against the Red Sox. It is good that he is healthy and showing promise for a good season.
He started the first official game in the Red Sox’ new jetBlue Park against most of the probable starting lineup for the Sox. With his tendency to be over-excited to begin ballgames, that might have contributed to his walking the first batter. Ultimately, pitching well against those major league hitters was the first encouraging sign.
Probably more significant was the fact that he made adjustments after walking the lead-off batter. Knowing he needed to make an adjustment, doing so immediately and without a visit by the pitching coach is progress for him. Rene Rivera may have helped him after throwing the first pitch very high and inside to the second batter when he went to the mound, which may have contributed to his settling down and making an adjustment.
His two strikeouts came on his slider, most often his strikeout pitch. That is not surprising, but his being able to locate the fastball better is another encouraging sign.
Maybe I’m making too much of this, but I don’t think it is just a coincidence that his catcher today was Rene Rivera. Last year he generally did better with Rivera behind the plate and calling the game. No doubt one reason is they can communicate in Spanish. If the Twins keep three catchers for opening day, will one be Rivera? I will hasten to add that I don’t think it is a good idea for pitchers to have “personal catchers” and I will be more than a little surprised if Rivera is on the 25-man roster when the Twins break camp. Even so, it bears watching to see how often this spring those two are matched up.
Of course, Liriano will have to continue to be effective as he pitches more innings this spring, but this first outing is a good start. If he is able to be consistent, the Twins may have a true #1 pitcher after all.