Top 20 Volcanoes players of all time: #7 Francisco Liriano

Francisco Liriano has won 112 games over his 14-year Major League career, which is the most ever for a former Volcano pitcher (Getty Images).

Francisco Liriano is #7 on the Keizertimes list of the top Volcanoes players of all time. The left-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic has racked up 112 wins over his 14-year big league career — which is the most for a former Volcano player. He also is a two-time Comeback Player of the Year Award winner and he won a World Series ring in 2017.

With a 93-mile-per-hour fastball to go along with his slider and change-up — both in the mid-80s — Liriano has excelled as a strikeout pitcher for the majority of his career, averaging more than one punch-out per inning.

As a phenom in his home country, Liriano signed with the San Francisco Giants as a 17-year old in 2000. He began his professional career in the Arizona Rookie League in 2001 before being promoted to the Volcanoes near the end of the season — Liriano made two starts for the Volcanoes in 2001.

After spending three seasons in the Giants organization, Liriano was traded to the Minnesota Twins, along with former Volcanoes Boof Bonser and Joe Nathan.

Liriano began his tenure with the Twins organization in advanced-A ball in 2004 but was eventually promoted to the Triple-A level with the Rochester Red Wings in 2005. Dubbed as one of the best prospects in the organization, Liriano flourished with the Red Wings, posting a 9-2 record with a 1.78 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 91 innings. He was named the International League Rookie of the Year at season’s end and led all of Minor League Baseball with 204 punch-outs — Liriano started the year with the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats.

In September 2005, Liriano was called up by the Twins and made his Major League debut on Sept. 5. He would win his first game on Sept. 30 against the Detroit Tigers, pitching seven innings and surrendering just five hits and two runs while striking out eight.

Liriano made the Twins opening day roster in 2006. Although he began the season in the bullpen, the southpaw transitioned into the starting rotation and quickly became one of the best arms in the American League (AL).

Liriano was named the AL Rookie of the Month in June and July of 2006 and earned a trip to his first All-Star Game. He led Major League Baseball in ERA and was considered a frontrunner for the AL Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Awards. But after being placed on the disabled list (DL) in August with elbow pain, Liriano missed the remainder of the season and didn’t have enough innings logged to qualify for any major awards. He finished the season with a 12-3 record and a 2.19 ERA with 144 strikeouts in 121 innings.

Liriano underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007 to repair his elbow and missed the entire season. He made his return to the Twins on April 13, 2008. But after three less-than-stellar post-surgery performances, Liriano was sent back down to Triple-A.

Liriano was impressive while rehabbing in Triple-A with the Red Wings, compiling a 10-2 record with a 3.28 ERA. He was brought back to the Twins in August 2008. Liriano won his first three starts since being re-called and had a 1.45 ERA in the final two months of the season. He finished the season with a 6-4 record and a 3.91 ERA in 76 innings.

However, in his first full season with the Twins since surgery, Liriano arguably had the worst year of his career, going 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA in 2009. During the offseason, Liriano returned to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball, helping Leones del Escogido win the league championship. In his seven playoff starts, Liriano had a 0.49 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 37 innings.

Liriano came back to the Twins in the spring of 2010 as a rejuvenated pitcher, cementing himself as the #2 starter in the rotation. In his first four starts of the season, Liriano went 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA and 27 strikeouts — he was named the AL Pitcher of the Month in April 2010.

While he had some moments of struggle from mid-May until the All-Star break, Liriano was incredibly sharp in the second half of the season. Over a two-month stretch, Liriano went 8-0 as a starter with a 2.41 ERA, limiting hitters to a .227 batting average and striking out 72 in 71 innings of work.

Liriano finished the season with a career-high of 191.2 innings pitched to go along with his 201 punch-outs — which was fifth in the AL.

Liriano made his first postseason start in game one of the 2010 American League Division Series (ALDS) and received a no-decision after throwing 5.2 innings and giving up four runs on six hits. The Twins lost the game 6-4 to the New York Yankees and were eventually swept in three games.

At the end of the season, Liriano received the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Liriano had a rough start to his 2011 season, beginning the year by giving up 24 runs in 23.2 innings. But with his rotational pitching spot in jeopardy, Liriano arguably had the best performance of his career.

On May 3, 2011, Liriano threw a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox in the Twins 1-0 victory. It was the seventh no-hitter in franchise history.

Liriano also had a stellar performance against the Texas Rangers on June 12, retiring the first 19 batters he faced. Liriano didn’t surrender his first hit until the eighth inning as the Twins defeated the Rangers 6-1.

However, Liriano’s performances began to fade during the end of the season. Liriano would miss the remainder of the year after being sent to the DL in August with a shoulder strain. He finished the year with a 9-10 record and a 5.09 ERA.

Liriano’s last quality start with the Twins came on July 13, 2012 when he struck out a career-high of 15 batters against the Oakland A’s. But Liriano’s inconsistency forced the Twins to trade him to the Chicago White Sox on July 28, 2012.

But Liriano didn’t have a lot of success in his two-month stint as a member of the White Sox as the team removed him from the rotation in September 2012. Liriano posted a combined record of 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA in 2012.

In 2013, Liriano agreed to a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even though he spent the first month of the season on the DL, Liriano was able to have one of the best years of his career. Liriano posted a career-best record of 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 161 innings.

Liriano started the 2013 National League (NL) Wild Card game — the first playoff game in Pittsburgh in more than two decades — and helped the Pirates to their first playoff win since 1992, pitching seven innings and giving up one run on four hits as the Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds by a score of 6-2.

For the second time in four years, Liriano was named the Comeback Player of the Year.

After going through struggles in the first half of the 2014 season, Liriano proved to be dominant in the second half of the year. In his final 14 starts, Liriano posted a 6-3 record and a 2.20 ERA. He ended the year with a record of 7-10 and a 3.38 ERA with 175 strikeouts. The Pirates rewarded him with a three-year contract worth $39 million.

Liriano continued his success in 2015 with a 12-7 record and 205 strikeouts — which was a career-high — to go along with his ERA of 3.38. He also led all MLB pitchers in lowest contact percentage (67.5%).

However, Liriano had troubles with his command during the 2016 season. Liriano started 21 games for the Pirates and had a 6-11 record with a 5.46 ERA before the team traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 1, 2016.

In his Blue Jays debut, Liriano gave up just two runs in six innings in Toronto’s 4-3 win. In his 10 appearances with the Blue Jays in 2016, Liriano was 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 49.1 innings.

In the 2016 AL Wild Card Game, Liriano entered in relief with one out in the top of the 10th inning and retired all five batters he faced. Liriano was declared the winning pitcher after Edwin Encarnación’s walk-off home run in the 11th inning.

Liriano made an appearance in the 2016 ALDS but had to miss the remainder of the postseason after being struck in the head with a line drive.

Liriano played with Toronto for the first half of the 2017 season and notched his 100th win as a pitcher on June 25. On July 31, 2017, Liriano was traded to the Houston Astros, where he was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen. In 20 appearances, Liriano had a 4.40 ERA.

Liriano made a pair of short appearances in the 2017 World Series, facing, and retiring, just one batter in each outing — the Astros won the series in seven games and Liriano got his first championship ring.

In 2018, Liriano signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers and earned a spot in the starting rotation. In 133.2 innings, Liriano went 5-12 with a 4.58 ERA and 110 punch-outs.

Liriano made his return to Pittsburgh in 2019 and was used exclusively as a reliever, posting a 5-3 record with a 3.47 ERA in 70 innings.

Due to COVID-19, Liriano elected to opt-out of the 2020 season. He is currently a free agent.