Notes: Liriano's patience tested at camp

Notes: Liriano's patience tested at camp

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's difficult right now for Francisco Liriano to think about the lessons he's learned from his much publicized elbow injury.

Currently limited to only some running and strength training, Liriano admits that it's been hard this week to watch his teammates get back into the grind of Spring Training while he sits and looks at the scar on his left elbow. After watching the other pitchers' bullpen sessions and fielding drills, Liriano desperately wants to be back out there with them -- not sitting out an entire season.

"I'm pretty uncomfortable because I just have to stay in here," Liriano said while sitting by his locker inside the home clubhouse at Hammond Stadium. "I just want to go out there with my team and work out with the guys. But I have to be patient and make sure that everything is going to be fine. I have to just make sure that I'm completely healthy before I go out there."

That in itself might be the biggest lesson Liriano could take from the Tommy John elbow surgery he underwent in November. After trying to pitch through pain last season without telling his coaches the truth, Liriano learned that sometimes it's better to take things slowly.

Despite the difficulty in waiting, the 23-year-old has come to terms that it will take around a full year to get back to the mound. Twins general manager Terry Ryan made it clear that the Twins will not try to rush him at any cost.

"There is too much at stake," Ryan said. "This guy has a heck of a future. We'd rather take it painfully slow than go through something that sets him back. We've seen this stuff with other pitchers before. I think the people that take their time and do the therapy and listen to the medical people have a better percentage of coming back and being like they were before."

The hope is that Liriano will return to the form he had in 2006, when he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA before injuring the elbow in early August. So far, that progress looks good as Ryan and the rest of the Twins staff are pleased with both Liriano's attitude and the work he's done so far. It appears that the pitcher will be able to start playing catch sometime around April, but time doesn't seem to be of any concern.

"It was a big thing to get it done and move forward," Liriano said of his surgery. "I was really upset at the beginning about what was going on, but now I'm happy with the way things are going. I think things are going to be OK."

Teaching new tricks: There were two fresh faces shagging balls in the outfield during batting practice on Friday.

Garrett Jones and Alejandro Machado took fly balls in both left and right field during the session as they received some instruction from coach Jerry White. Both are expected to see some time in the outfield this spring.

Normally a first baseman, Jones has been instructed to focus primarily on the outfield. With Justin Morneau solidly entrenched at first base, the Twins are hoping Jones can show them some ability to play different positions.

"For Jonesy to get to the big leagues, he needs to play the outfield," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's starting to swing the bat, he's starting to understand the strike zone and all those things. But to play up here on a consistent basis, he needs to play the outfield."

Machado, a middle infielder, is expected to battle for one of the open bench spots. He would provide the club with the backup shortstop it lacked last season, when Jason Bartlett was forced to start 99 straight games after being called up. But with a limited number of spots available off the bench, especially if the club decides to take 12 pitchers, Machado's ability to play the outfield is something the Twins could see as an advantage.

One lefty, two lefty: There has been a lot of talk about the need to add another lefty to the Twins bullpen, but one person who isn't concerned about whether that happens is Dennys Reyes.

The team's lone lefty out of the bullpen, Reyes certainly saw his share of work in '06 as he appeared in 66 games (the most of his career) while amassing a team-low 0.89 ERA. The concern from Gardenhire and the other coaches has been that Reyes was worn out by the end of the season, but the man nicknamed the "Big Sweat" said it wasn't anything truly worrisome.

"I was a little bit tired, but it was not like I hit a wall," Reyes said. "I think it would help if the team had another lefty, but Gardy said he's going to take the best pitchers. He has a history of making good decisions, so whether they bring in another one or not, I'm going to be there for them every day."

Only a day away: Another day passed without pitcher Ramon Ortiz in camp, but the pitcher finally arrived at the team's practice facility late Friday afternoon.

The right-hander is expected to be in uniform for Saturday's first full-squad workout.

Twins tidbits: Friday marked the mandatory reporting date for all position players, and it appeared that by mid-morning almost all 59 players expected to be in camp were in attendance. The players missing, besides Ortiz, were infielders Alexi Casilla and Gil Velazquez. ... Josh Rabe's back problem has improved and the outfielder is expected to take part in Saturday's workout. ... Many of the Twins took part in the annual Lee Cancer Care Golf outing on Thursday afternoon at the Verandah Club. The event is hosted by former Twins pitcher and current television broadcaster Bert Blyleven.

Quotable: "I think we have to just X-out last year. We can't worry about what happened. But still, you want them to have a piece of that in their mind about how we played. You want that hunger to carry over to this year. I don't like to talk about last year, last year, last year. Well, that's over. That won't help us one bit this year. But the memory of stinking in the playoffs, maybe we can use that to our advantage a little bit." -- Gardenhire, on using the 3-0 sweep by Oakland in the playoffs as motivation in '07

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.