MINNEAPOLIS -- The agent for Francisco Liriano has reportedly gotten the players' union to agree to investigate whether the Twins have violated the collective bargaining agreement by keeping Liriano at Triple-A Rochester. Greg Genske, Liriano's agent, first confirmed to Foxsports.com that he sought out the union, due to his client's frustration of pitching well for the last month and still not being called up. Twins general manager Bill Smith said Thursday night that he had not been informed of any such action.
"I have not received any notice from Major League Baseball in anything that relates to the matter," Smith said. One of the primary factors in the investigation is the possible adverse effect the delayed callup may have had on Liriano's service time. Liriano currently has two years and 45 days of Major League service time. To quality for arbitration, a player needs three years of service time. But the top 17 percent of players with between two and three years of service will also quality for arbitration as "Super Twos." Even if the Twins promoted him today with 73 days remaining in the season, Liriano would likely fall short of the Super Two mark. That's significant for Liriano, because gaining arbitration status likely would have meant a salary increase of close to $1 million for the 2009 season. When asked how service time factors into roster decisions, Smith stated the his team's only concern is "winning baseball games" and he pointed to the fact that the club called Liriano up to the Majors in April. "If service time was a factor, we wouldn't have brought him up in April," Smith said. "We brought him up in April hoping that he would find what he had before and he'd be up here all year. "It wasn't a factor when we started the season with Joe Mauer a few years ago. We could have sent Joe Mauer to the Minor Leagues for 60 days and saved a lot of service time. But we're trying to win baseball games, that's always been our goal." "We contacted the MLBPA about Francisco's situation and the union determined that there were grounds to open an investigation into the club's treatment of Francisco," Genske said in an e-mail. Liriano struggled in that initial stint with the Twins. In his first return to the Majors since undergoing Tommy John surgery in November of 2006, Liriano went 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA in three starts. Minnesota's coaching staff said that Liriano had problems commanding his fastball and wanted to see the pitcher gain more control as well as more confidence before returning. Since being sent back to Rochester in late April, Liriano has shown significant improvement. He's 8-0 with a 2.53 ERA over his last 10 starts. That included an eight-inning outing on Thursday night in which he allowed just one earned run on seven hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. The problem for the Twins has been a lack of a spot for Liriano, Smith said. The team won 21 of 27 games going into the All-Star break and it has been pleased overall with the performance of all five starters in the rotation. Smith compared Liriano's situation to that of Denard Span, who was doing well at Rochester and likely deserved a callup, but the team didn't have room for him until Michael Cuddyer went down with an injury. Smith said the team "has no timetable" for Liriano's possible return. "I'm thrilled at the progress he has made over the last year and a half since the surgery and especially in the last three months," Smith said. "I'm sure he's frustrated ... But we brought him up in April and he clearly wasn't ready. The best thing that came out of that was that the message was clear to everybody -- to Francisco, to his agent, to the front office, the coaches and the fans -- and the message was that he wasn't ready. He went back and, again, he has done everything that we've asked. "I think his first 10 starts, everyone was a little better than the previous one. He had a couple of hiccups in a row and since then he's had four outstanding starts. We're thrilled about that. I think he's going to have a chance to be a big contributor to this club for a long time."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.