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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2008

Liriano dominates Mud Hens as Rochester romps

BY KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - The Minnesota Twins say Francisco Liriano isn't ready to return to major league baseball.

The Toledo Mud Hens say the Twins are a little crazy.

Liriano dazzled and confounded Hens hitters last night, allowing just two hits while striking out 10 in seven innings, and the Red Wings breezed to a 13-0 victory over Toledo at Frontier Field.

"That's the most we've been shut down," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said.

The loss, as ugly as possible, dropped the Mud Hens two games behind Louisville in the International League West. They committed five errors and allowed 16 hits, including three each by Howie Clark and Trevor Plouffe.

"We didn't waste anything tonight - hits, pitching, defense," Parrish said. "It was one of those games where you go, oh, boy, that was a bad one."

A bad one when they were at the mercy of a great left arm.

Four months into his comeback from Tommy John surgery in 2006, Liriano has been dominating IL hitters since June. He is 9-0 with a 2.37 earned-run average in his last 10 starts. In the 35 innings that comprise his last five starts, he has allowed only one run, 19 hits and five walks while striking out 42.

Last night he was at his best. He struck out the side in the first, two more in the second and didn't allow a baserunner until Erick Almonte doubled into the corner in left with one out in the third.

The only other hit was a broken-bat bloop over third base by Jeff Larish in the seventh.

"I think the numbers speak for themselves," Larish said. "He proved why he had the success he had in the past."

The Twins haven't promoted Liriano because they haven't needed a starter. Their four kids

- Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins and Nick Blackburn - as well as ageless veteran Livan Hernandez have been solid and kept them in contention in the American League Central.

"I'm ready, I'm just waiting for them to give me that opportunity," Liriano said.

His manager agrees that Liriano is ready for big-league hitters.

"Absolutely," Red Wings manager Stan Cliburn said when asked point-blank. "I don't think he can throw any more dominating than that, to do that - give up two hits and strike out 10 - with a lineup that's stacked with hitters.

"That's a big-league lineup over there. He got ahead with the fastball, he moved feet. You saw a lot of bent knees tonight."

Liriano was the IL rookie of the year in 2005 and was 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA in 2006 before injuring his elbow. His agent, Greg Genske, squawked loudly last week that the Twins needed to promote his client.

"You ask our guys and I think they'll tell you he's ready," Parrish said.

"He's ready, I think he's shown that," Plouffe said. "It's been a pleasure and I hope we don't see him back again."

The Hens second the idea.

Not that the Red Wings needed Liriano to dominate last night. They led 2-0 after their first two batters. Jason Pridie tripled off Virgil Vasquez (6-10) and Clark followed with a homer to right.

Three errors, a walk and doubles by Matt Macri and Alejandro Machado and Plouffe's sacrifice fly produced four unearned runs in the third, and four more hits in the fourth produced three runs for a 9-0 lead. By then the Hens had four errors.

"At that point I told them in the dugout, get it all out in one game," Parrish said.



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