Wings Pitcher Of The Year: Francisco Liriano

Liriano won nine of his 14 Rochester starts.

Francisco Liriano was the most exciting player in the Minnesota Twins' farm system in 2005, as he made the jump from Double-A New Britain, to Rochester, and finished up the year in the Major Leagues. However, it was his work at Rochester that really made his stick out in the eyes of most baseball experts. In 2006, look for Liriano to fight for a rotation spot in Minnesota, and continue to progress into an elite pitcher.

The 2005 Pitcher of the Year for the Rochester Red Wings is Francisco Liriano. While it was hard to shy away from Scott Baker, who led the International League in ERA this past season, it was Liriano who took the IL by storm in 2005. Using a devastating fastball, slider, and change, Liriano baffled IL hitters all season long.

Although he began the year at Double-A New Britain, it was Liriano's work at the Triple-A level that really put his name on the map. For his efforts, Liriano was named USA Today Minor League Player of the Year, as he began to stake his claim for a Minnesota Twins rotation spot in 2006.

Liriano started 14 games for the Red Wings after his call-up, and was dominant in every single one of them. He finished up his Triple-A season with a 9-2 record, and posted a 1.78 ERA. He was also named the International League Rookie of the Year, and made Baseball America's Minor League All-Star Team.

All season long, Liriano kept International League hitters off balance. He held them to the tune of a .177 batting average, while striking out 112 batters in 91 innings of work. He also walked only 24 batters, silencing the critics who believe he has no control over his impressive arsenal.

For his efforts, Liriano was promoted to the Major Leagues in September. He looked overmatched at times, but continued to show the ability to strike people out. In 23.2 innings of work, as both a starter and a reliever, Liriano struck out 33 batters, this after leading the Minor Leagues with 204.

It is still up in the air if Liriano will be in the starting rotation for the Twins in 2006, but many Twins fans feel he should be. While some people close to the organization say he will get more seasoning in Triple-A to start the year, it will be evident when the Twins make their decision on Kyle Lohse.

One thing is for sure, Liriano will be providing some fireworks in 2006, whether it is in Minnesota or Rochester.

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