TORONTO -- Francisco Liriano took the mound on Saturday afternoon amidst swirling trade speculation and delivered one of his best outings this season. From a Blue Jays perspective, the timing could not have been any better.Toronto ended up losing to the Angels, 6-5, but very little of that had to
TORONTO -- Francisco Liriano took the mound on Saturday afternoon amidst swirling trade speculation and delivered one of his best outings this season. From a Blue Jays perspective, the timing could not have been any better.
Toronto ended up losing to the Angels, 6-5, but very little of that had to do with Liriano. The veteran lefty retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced and finished six strong innings having allowed three runs on five hits and just one walk.
Liriano experienced some issues during a three-run sixth but prior to that he showed the type of upside that made him such a sought-after commodity earlier in his career. The 92-95 mph sinker had devastating downward action, and he brought an effective changeup and at times a biting slider. When Liriano's on the top of his game there are few pitchers with better stuff, but consistency has always been the issue.
"I don't pay attention to those kind of things," Liriano said through an interpreter when asked about the trade speculation. "I try to control whatever I can control. My main goal is to stay with the team here. I don't listen to rumors or anything like that. I just try to do my best out here and do the best for the team."
Earlier this season, Liriano seemed poised for a big year. He was borderline untouchable during Spring Training and showed very few of the command issues that have plagued him throughout his career. The success proved to be shortlived as Liriano could not make it out of the first inning during his first appearance of the regular season.
The early struggles were a prelude to a frustrating four months. Liriano dealt with shoulder, neck and back injuries and at one point he spent almost a month on the disabled list. He returned in early June and has been searching for consistency ever since. In the lead-up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, he might have found it.
Liriano allowed two runs over five innings during his last start against the A's and he followed that up with a strong six-inning performance against the Angels. It marked his first time allowing three runs or less in back-to-back starts since April and comes at a time when Toronto is trying to maximize its return for the soon-to-be free agent.
"That's almost as good, probably, as I've ever seen him here," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He was under control, sticking it pretty good to both sides of the plate. Good breaking ball, good changeup."
There's still no guarantee that Liriano will be dealt. Oakland's Sonny Gray and Texas' Yu Darvish are among the pitchers who will receive more attention in the hours leading up to Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. But once those players come off the board there will still be other organizations looking to upgrade their pitching staffs, and that's where Liriano comes into play.
Liriano has been linked to the Royals and Cubs in recent days. He's still a member of the Blue Jays and would like to keep it that way, but his future remains very much in doubt.
"I know I haven't been here for a long time but I feel great how they treat me here," Liriano said. "I like my teammates, the organization. I cannot control what happens next. I think we have a great team, either this year or next year. So, for me, it's to try and go out there and compete and do my best."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.