Liriano saw trade coming, but not to the White Sox

Francisco Liriano realized he was ripe to be traded, with the

Minnesota Twins out of the race and his contract expiring at the

end of the season.

He didn’t expect to wind up with the division rival Chicago

White Sox.

But that’s where he went, and for an interesting twist to the

end of his vexing tenure with the Twins the talented yet

inconsistent lefty will find his new team facing his old club this

week at Target Field. The White Sox sent two prospects to the

Twins.

”It was kind of a surprise to me, but that’s part of

baseball,” Liriano said Sunday on a conference call.

He didn’t have to leave town. Liriano will start Tuesday’s game

at Target Field.

”I wish I could say I was looking forward to that, but I’m

really not,” Twins center fielder Denard Span said. ”So we will

see.”

Span has seen Liriano’s signature slider dart away from many a

bat, from his view behind the mound.

”I’m definitely hoping that when we face them his slider isn’t

on,” Span said.

This was the first deal the Twins made with the White Sox since

1986. They preferred not to give him to such a familiar opponent,

but losing him for nothing is worse. New rules this year require

teams to offer salary arbitration to their free agents in order to

receive draft-pick compensation, and the Twins didn’t pursue a

contract extension with him.

”I took the best baseball trade I could get,” Twins general

manager Terry Ryan said. He added that ”a lot” of the

20-something teams still in the playoff chase expressed interest in

acquiring Liriano, whose sensational rookie performances in 2006

coupled with Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana’s usual dominance

created a season the Twins or their fans won’t forget.

Liriano went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121

innings that year, before an elbow problem ended his season and

prompted Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

”It was something special and something we’ll remember. For a

while all of us will play that `what-if’ game,” said first baseman

Justin Morneau, the league MVP in 2006. ”What if we had him and

Santana going into the playoffs that year when everybody was

hot?”

Liriano might never return to that form, but he’s been good

enough this summer after an awful April and May to persuade the

White Sox to add him to their young, promising but tired

rotation.

His addition has given the White Sox the ability to skip

All-Star Chris Sale’s next turn, which was scheduled for Wednesday,

if they want to. Manager Robin Ventura said Sunday that Sale is

experiencing ”fatigue” and added that they’ll use a six-man

rotation of sorts for now and that struggling right-hander Phil

Humber will make his next scheduled start.

”Feel like I can be more consistent than I was before, go

deeper into games, too,” Liriano said. ”I’m on a pretty good run

now, too, so I’ll bring that to the White Sox and try to help them

win some games.”

White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said pitching coach Don

Cooper ”thinks he has a little bit of wisdom” to impart on

Liriano that can ”immediately show some better results” for the

left-hander who is 3-10 with a 5.31 ERA this season.

Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson joked that Liriano was the

source of his gray hair, for all the downs that came after the

ups.

”We said it a million times: He’s got some of the best stuff

you’d want to see,” Anderson said. ”It’s just a matter of putting

it all together.”

In lamenting the departure of Liriano, labeled by manager Ron

Gardenhire a ”stand-up guy” and a good teammate with a strong

work ethic, the Twins were forced to ponder the possibility of

another trade or two before baseball’s Tuesday non-waiver

deadline.

”We’ve put our general manager in this situation because of our

performance,” Gardenhire said. ”Terry has to do what he has to do

to right this organization and bring more talent to it.”

Span and Morneau have both heard their names bandied about.

”I’d be lying to you If I tell you I don’t think about it or

it’s not on my mind. You can’t control it. You just hope you can

make it through the trade deadline. Either way, whatever happens,

I’ll take it in stride,” Span said.

The Twins will add right-hander Jeff Manship to the roster

Monday. He’s 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA in six starts for Triple-A

Rochester since his first stint with the Twins. The prospects from

the White Sox, shortstop Eduardo Escobar and left-hander Pedro

Hernandez, both 23, have been assigned to Rochester.

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