Left-hander gives AL Central leaders six starting pitchers
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INGTON -- White Sox general manager Ken Williams' cellphone finally ran out of minutes late Saturday night, as he joked via email, but not before he added another potential frontline starter to his already solid rotation.
Francisco Liriano, the 28-year-old southpaw with electric stuff, was acquired from the Twins in exchange for utility infielder Eduardo Escobar and Minor League southpaw Pedro Hernandez. Liriano has a 3-10 record and 5.31 ERA with 109 strikeouts over 100 innings in 22 games and 17 starts this season, including the seven runs he allowed to the White Sox on seven hits over 2 2/3 innings on Monday night.
But one rough start amid a somewhat rough year did not dissuade the White Sox from taking a chance on the man who no-hit them on May 3, 2011.
"Everybody has been here long enough where we've seen everything [from Liriano]," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko. "You've seen him pitch well, you've seen him throw a no-hitter.
"You've seen the other night, too. Hopefully, a change of scenery, that will give him a shot of energy and you see that life on his fastball come back and his slider and all that. We'll have to wait and see.
"We have the guru of pitching, Don Cooper, that I'm sure will put his stamp on him," Konerko said. "We have good pitching. He doesn't need to come in and throw shutouts. We are swinging the bats pretty well and just come in and give us a chance to win."
This move opens up as many questions as it provides answers, but the primary point of focus is how will the White Sox adjust their rotation? Earlier in the day, John Danks told MLB.com that surgery could become a possible option if it's decided a return for 2012 won't happen. Acquiring Liriano seems to be an indication that Danks and his sore left shoulder have become more of a long shot to help this season.
Even without Danks, though, the White Sox have Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Gavin Floyd, Jose Quintana and Philip Humber, who hurled six strong innings during a 5-2 victory over the Rangers on Saturday night. The White Sox could explore a trade involving Floyd or Humber, with the team in need of a utility infielder that is primarily a shortstop with Escobar departing, or the more likely scenario is they can employ a six-man rotation for the foreseeable future.
Using six starters reduces the workload for a first-year starter like Sale and a rookie like Quintana. Manager Robin Ventura explained those decisions were yet to be made.
Cooper admitted a six-man could be put into place.
"That's a possibility. Certainly a possibility," Cooper said. "We have days off. It's all a possibility and we haven't gotten there yet. Right now we're going to have to do something to clear a spot. We'll figure it out."
"We have been working the phones for weeks trying make the team as strong and as resilient as possible for the stretch run," said Williams via email to a pool reporter. "Due to circumstances, we thought bringing in another starter was imperative to combat the two-month grind ahead and hopefully beyond. In talking to Liriano, he is excited and motivated to get after it and join us for this run."
While the White Sox were happy to add Liriano, they were openly saddened to lose an upbeat jack-of-all-trades such as Escobar. After Escobar doubled twice and drove in a run on Saturday night, the emotional shortstop was greeted with hugs, pats on the back and speeches of encouragement from pretty much every teammate and coach in the clubhouse.
Many White Sox players felt it was a good break for Escobar, who would get more regular playing time for a struggling Twins team. But Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan said Saturday night that a tough decision was made by sending Escobar to Triple-A Rochester because he needs "regular at-bats." Meanwhile, Liriano's roller-coaster ride with the Twins came to an end.
"It was a struggle, then he was great. He's capable, as we all know," Ryan said. "He's capable of being quite good when he pitches ahead, throws the ball over the plate. It's as simple as that."
"I've played with Franky and he's a great teammate," said Humber, who played with Liriano in 2008 and '09. "He's one of those guys who makes the guys around him better by the way he works hard. Everyone knows he has got great stuff. I'm excited to have him on the team. He's going to be a great addition."
Before the game, Williams was asked via email about his pursuit of Zack Greinke that was talked about Saturday by Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin. On that topic, Williams responded, "Moving on."
Liriano clearly was the subject of that move.
"They've been interested. They've seen him a lot. They know what he's capable of doing," said Ryan of the White Sox interest in Liriano, a free agent after 2012, who will join the team Monday at Target Field. "That never hurts when people observe, as much as they've seen him. There were many clubs interested in him, as we talked about. Everybody seems to be looking for pitching."
"He's somebody that's been good," said Ventura of Liriano. "That's part of Kenny trying to find something to push us over the top."