Liriano arrives at Twins campFORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Francisco Liriano arrived at Minnesota Twins spring training
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Francisco Liriano arrived at Minnesota Twins spring training today after missing the first nine days because of visa problems in his native Dominican Republic.
The pitcher cleared up those issues Monday and hopped a Tuesday morning flight to the United States. The former All-Star is coming off Tommy John surgery.
Liriano strolled into the clubhouse shortly after 6:30 a.m. with a big smile on his face. He was immediately greeted by teammates eager to see the left-hander who went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121.0 innings in 2006 before developing arm problems.
‘‘We can start now,’’ catcher Mike Redmond shouted across the room. ‘‘Franchise is here!’’
The delay in obtaining the visa was because of a Florida drunken-driving plea. The Twins and Liriano were unaware of a new U.S. policy that requires DUI offenders to complete an alcohol assessment before they can get a visa.
While in the Dominican Republic, Liriano worked out at the Twins’ baseball academy there in hopes of not falling behind the rest of the pitchers who made it to camp on time.
Manager Ron Gardenhire said he heard glowing reports of Liriano’s progress from team officials there and was not concerned that the missed time was going to set him back too much in his return to the mound.
But there is a cloud of uncertainty that surrounds Liriano as he prepares.
‘‘You can say anything you want about 2006,’’ Redmond said.
‘‘Everybody that saw him knows he was phenomenal and outstanding and all those words. He was every bit of it. Now it’s different. He’s off surgery and we don’t know. We don’t know what he’s going to be like.’’
Liriano missed all of 2007 while recovering from the surgery. They don’t plan to rush things, preferring to ease him back into shape.
‘‘f he just stays healthy, he’s going to be just fine,’’ catcher Joe Mauer said.
The Twins certainly need him. They traded ace Johan Santana to the Mets and let workhorse Carlos Silva leave in free agency for Seattle.