After having been arguably the Blue Jays’ best pitcher in spring training, Francisco Liriano was badly roughed up in his first regular season start.
Well, the season didn’t exactly start on a positive note for Francisco Liriano. The 33 year old who is beginning his first full season as a Blue Jay got his first regular season start on Friday night, and it was nothing short of a disaster.
Liriano couldn’t make it out of the first inning, being removed from the game with the bases loaded and only one out. All told he would finish with 0.1 innings pitched, 3 hits, 4 walks and 5 earned runs, good for a 135.00 ERA. Ouch.
The talented left-hander has been prone to struggles throughout his career, but he had never had a night as bad as this. In fact, it was the shortest start of his 12 year career.
All of this, after an absolutely dominant Grapefruit League season from Liriano. He was arguably Toronto’s best pitcher during the spring season, and expectations were (and still are) high for the 33 year old, as he enters the season trying to re-establish himself as a dominant starter.
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He showed what he can do when he’s right during the Grapefruit League season, allowing just 4 runs over 18 innings pitched, with a 2.00 ERA, .161 opponents average, 0.89 WHIP and 29 strikeouts. Whether they were major league regulars or minor leaguers trying to establish themselves, Liriano mowed them down without mercy prior to Opening Day.
So what happened in his first start? As Liriano indicated in the above tweet from Hazel Mae, “everything” went wrong in his first go-around of the 2017 season. Which leads me to my next point.
Spring training stats don’t matter at all.
The only reason they matter for MLB veterans is to try and get a gauge on how prepared they are to start the grind of the regular season. However, in Liriano’s case, you could argue that he looked as prepared as anyone in baseball. He absolutely dominated for a month, and then when it was time for the real thing, he could barely throw a strike.
No, it wasn’t because Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught him on Friday night. If you were watching Twitter during the game, there were several calling out John Gibbons’ lunacy at having messed with Liriano’s mind set prior to the game. Only, Martin hasn’t caught him for a couple weeks now.
So what does it all mean? Two things.
a) As I said, spring stats actually don’t matter. Like, at all.
b) Liriano will likely be just fine.
If you’ve been following the Dominican throughout his career, then you’ll know this is pretty much par for the course. One day, he looks like a pitcher poised to contend for the Cy Young award, and the next you wonder who gave him a jersey.
Hopefully for Liriano’s and the Blue Jays’ sake, the talented left-hander can get himself back to the confident place he was in Florida. If he can do that, the sky is the limit for him, and he could be a very coveted arm once we reach the offseason again.
However, even with all of his talent, he could also have a few nights like he did on Friday along the way. Here’s hoping that was the worst of them.