Francisco Liriano, who is scheduled to start this Sunday against the Rays, has given the Twins' staff a big boost since returning to the Majors. Prior to a rough start earlier this week, the lefthander had been 5-0 with a 1.57 ERA in eight starts since rejoining the Twins on Aug. 1. Coming off a missed season due to ligament replacement surgery in his elbow, the 24-year-old hurler was sent to the Minors after a slow start in April. Recently, however, he's looked like he did in 2006, when he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and emerged as one of the AL's top young pitchers. He recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: How do you feel you're throwing the ball since your return?
Liriano: I feel really good. Everything has been working for me on the mound. My slider and my changeup have been going well.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How have you changed as a pitcher since 2006?
Liriano: Before my surgery, I mostly threw fastballs and sliders all the time. Now I feel more like a pitcher than a thrower. I am throwing my changeup more and not relying just on those other two pitches.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When you look at your success right now, does it feel like it did two years ago?
Liriano: Yes. It's starting to feel like 2006 again to me. I'm not throwing as hard as I did then, but I feel like my slider is working pretty well.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Away from the field, you went through months of grueling rehab. How do you define that experience?
Liriano: The rehab process was a really long time. I tried to be patient, but I just wanted to play baseball. At the same time, though, you don't have much of a choice. It was very hard for me to miss a whole year. I'm so glad it is over.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Is it as much mental as it is physical?
Liriano: It's both. Some days it's mental. Your arm might not hurt at that particular moment, and you want to throw the ball. You want to let it go, but you can't.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Did you think during this process that you might not ever pitch again?
Liriano: There were some days when I thought I wouldn't be back. You go through the process, and there was pain in my arm. It was frustrating, but you have to be patient.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You have returned in the midst of a pennant race. Does that make your recent run of success here that much more important to you?
Liriano: It makes it that much more fun to come to the park. It makes me feel better when I do contribute. I'm trying to do my best to help us get some wins. If we can get to the playoffs, it will be really exciting. If we win some more games here, we'll see.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Before your recall, you went 10-0 in your last 11 starts with Triple-A Rochester. How have you carried that success back to the big leagues?
Liriano: Down there, I was pitching, but I was also getting my confidence back. Everything is working now like it was then. So obviously, I'm happy about that.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When you came back this season, is it true that your arm was hurting, but you didn't say anything?
Liriano: Yes. That was back in Spring Training. It was sort of bothering me, but it wasn't too bad. It was as much mental as anything.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.