The Sports Network reports the Minnesota Twins have optioned starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (elbow) to Class A Fort Myers. Liriano is expected to make one or two more warm-up starts in the minors before returning to the big leagues.
Fantasy owners who drafted Liriano shouldn't worry too much about this development, and they certainly shouldn't drop him from their rosters. This move is typical of pitchers who are limited in spring training, as Liriano was in his return from Tommy John surgery in 2006. The Twins just want to make sure their eventual ace is completely refreshed and ready to begin the season. In the long run, this does not affect his fantasy value much this season.
Unfortunately, since Liriano is no longer injured and is only getting into game shape, the Twins had to option him to the minors instead of placing him on the disabled list. This means fantasy owners must keep him on their active roster instead of stashing him on the fantasy disabled list. However, since Liriano is only expected to be held out for a couple of starts, it shouldn't be too much of a strain to keep him stashed away.
Replacing Liriano in the rotation until he returns will be Nick Blackburn, who has only 11 2/3 innings of major league experience. In six relief appearances last season, Blackburn compiled a 7.71 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, struck out eight batters and sustained two losses. He has a career minor league record of 40-40, with a 3.68 ERA. He is likely not worth fantasy consideration in mixed leagues this season, although he is considered the Twins' top prospect by Baseball America. He might be worth a spot start or two in AL-only leagues. He had a 2.25 ERA and eight strikeouts in 16 innings this spring. However, Blackburn will probably make his first start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who had one of the strongest offenses in the league last season. It might be wise for owners to skip this matchup.
About Andrew Stewart
Andrew Stewart has been a Hot off the Wire Analyst for KFFL since 2007.
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