Category: Francisco Liriano

Burnett implodes against the Twins, replacements seem ready in the minors

During Saturday evening’s game at Target Field against the Minnesota Twins A.J. Burnett had yet another disappointing pitching performance during the 9-4 loss.  His line of 1.2 innings, five hits, seven earned runs, three walks and one home run allowed was even filled with controversy this time.

Burnett’s inexcusable behavior entailed going on an expletive laced rampage after being taken out of the game by Joe Girardi with the bases loaded.  Girardi impressively denied that there was any major issue between him and Burnett when questioned about why he stormed into the locker-room after taking him out.  He claimed it was because he was trying to look at a pitch that was questionably called a ball but the real reason should materialize soon.

Burnett repeatedly says that he has to do better and he will figure things out soon but that excuse is getting old.  His ineffectiveness will only hurt the Yankees going down the stretch.  His performance included allowing three consecutive walks before being pulled from the game, two doubles, a wild pitch and 28 pitches in the first inning.

Burnett appeared to have his spot safe in the rotation since Freddy Garcia went on the disabled list earlier in the day on Saturday, but as of now he should miss at least one start.  Right now, before Sunday’s game, they are tied for first place with the Red Sox, so they team needs somebody who can be relied upon to give quality starts.

Some candidates from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre include Adam Warren who has a 3.33 ERA in 137 innings, D.J Mitchell who has a 3.49 ERA in 141 innings and Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos who have only made four and one starts, respectively, but are highly rated prospects.  The two top choices should be Warren who has had spent the whole year at AAA, or Banuelos because he has made three more starts at AAA than Betances.

Either way, any of those four offers more potential than Burnett, who usually fades even if he pitches four solid innings.  However, replacing Burnett with one of those four in the minors does not seem very likely because Girardi and GM Brian Cashman seem to have so much confidence in him partly because they don’t want to give up on the huge investment.

On the offensive side, the Yankees managed to score four runs, but only two players really stood out against Francisco Liriano who didn’t allow any earned runs in seven innings.  Eduardo Nunez picked up two hits for his third multi hit game in his last four, and Andruw Jones hit a home run during his second consecutive game.

The Yankees only scored one earned run during the first seven innings off of Liriano, which is not all that surprising because even though he has a high 4.85 ERA right now he was an All-Star in 2006 and last season he finished with a 3.62 ERA (finishing 11th in the CY Young).  He has a lot of potential when not injured so if Burnett would not have exploded, both mentally and in the pitching department, they would have had a chance.

Ivan Nova is pitching on Sunday while Nick Blackburn is the starter for the Twins.  Blackburn is not nearly the pitcher that Liriano is, so the offense should not struggle like it did on Saturday during Alex Rodriguez’s return from surgery.  With a victory the Bronx Bombers will have won five out of seven during their Midwest road-trip through Kansas City and Minneapolis.

If Nova is able to get the victory he will become the first rookie starter for the Yankees to win eight or more in a row since Whitey Ford achieved the feat in 1950.  He will also be continuing his bid for the Rookie of the Year.

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>Offense falls flat but Liriano is intriguing

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Francisco Liriano pitched the first no hitter of the season for the Twins on Tuesday.  He was an intriguing pitcher for the Yankees to acquire after Cliff Lee went to the Phillies and Andy Pettitte retired, and now his name comes to the forefront again.  
Against the Tigers, on May 4th the Yankees lost a game where Max Scherzer flat out dominated and they were not able to play small ball in order to score any runs in the 4-0 loss.  It was only the second two game losing streak of the season.  Freddy Garcia allowed one run in the second, and three in the third, but bounced back to pitch effectively for the next four innings.  For his last two starts Garcia has pitched more like the average pitcher that he has been the last two years, and less like the excellent pitcher that he was with the Mariners early in his career.
The offense needs to figure out how to put some runs together because they only scored two runs when they faced a mediocre Brad Penny, and then got shutout against Scherzer.  They are a little too reliant on the home run, having scored the highest percentage of their runs in the league off the long ball.  However, it is likely that they will be able to capitalize during a matinee game when they face Rick Porcello, to close out the series against the Tigers.  He has pitched better recently after a sluggish start to the season but he has struggled to live up to expectations.  The Yankees are only hitting .255 collectively against Porcello in a limited number of at bats.  The Yankees should be able to put some runs on the board off a young pitcher still trying to find himself.
 
Bartolo Colon is pitching brilliantly to start the season but his history with injuries suggests that this might not be able to last the whole season.  Since Phil Hughes will be out recovering from his shoulder inflammation injury for six to eight weeks, and possibly longer, it will be necessary for the Yankees to explore all options for a pitching upgrade.  Even though Colon did not pitch at all last season it seems like he will be more reliable than Garcia because of his command and confidence on the mound.  Colon has not shown any signs of slowing down, continuing to show stellar control during his first start in May where he did not allow a single walk, so it seems like he might be trusted to stay in the rotation the whole season.
The no-hitter by Liriano was by far his best start of the season since he now has an ERA of 6.61 with more walks than strikeouts.  However when healthy he has proven that he has the ability to dominate American League hitters like he did last season and in 2006, when he was an All-Star.  He is a slight injury risk so the Yankees should wait until the middle of July to see if he is able to stay healthy and pitching effectively.  Liriano is only 27, so he is entering the prime of his career and there is a chance that the injury bug is behind him.
Garcia could be effective as a long man out of the bullpen if the Yankees do acquire Liriano after the trade deadline.  If the Yankees can get his services without having to give up the stars of their minor league system in Miguel Montero, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances or Andrew Brackman they should make the deal.  If forced to give up one of the “Killer B’s” I would give up Brackman since he seems to have the least potential for excellence.  If they have to include Ivan Nova then they can call up somebody like Hector Noesi to take his spot.  The Twins might be encouraged to make a deal like this, for Nova and a position player because they would not want to lose Liriano for nothing.  A rotation of Sebathia, Liriano, Burnett, Hughes and potentially Banuelos next season would be very effective.   
A factor in the Yankees favor is that Scherzer is from Morristown, New Jersey, which is not far from the Bronx, so even though the game is in Detroit, he will likely have a lot of nerves facing his hometown team.