Twins release Hernandez; promote Liriano

MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano finally got what he wanted. No more Triple-A hitters for him. "The Franchise" is back in Minnesota's starting rotation.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano finally got what he wanted. No more Triple-A hitters for him. "The Franchise" is back in Minnesota's starting rotation.

The Twins waited until a day after the trade deadline to make their big move, promoting Liriano from Rochester on Friday and cutting ties with right-hander Livan Hernandez and outfielder Craig Monroe.

"It's what I was waiting for," said Liriano, who will start Sunday's series finale against Cleveland. "I'm so happy to be here."

The 2006 All-Star missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery and was battered in his first stint up this season in April, going 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA before being sent down.

"It's been a long time," Liriano said. "I wasn't ready when I was here so I had to go down and get myself ready."


Liriano dominated for Rochester, going 10-0 with a 2.67 ERA in his last 11 starts. Yet the Twins stuck with Hernandez and youngsters Glen Perkins, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey in a starting rotation that had them a half-game behind the White Sox in the AL Central heading into Friday night's game against Cleveland.

But Liriano's agent, Greg Genske, asked the players' union to investigate why his client had not been recalled to the majors.

The call finally came on Thursday night, but Liriano tried to downplay the situation on Friday.

"They were winning a lot of games without me," Liriano said. "I just kind of waited for an open spot."

The Twins also selected the contract of first baseman/designated hitter Randy Ruiz from Rochester to take Monroe's place. Monroe hit .202 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs.

While Liriano couldn't be happier to be back up in the big leagues, his good buddy Hernandez was taken aback by being let go.

Hernandez (10-8, 5.48 ERA) won six of his first seven decisions with the Twins and still led the rotation in wins at the time of his dismissal. But he also leads the majors with 199 hits allowed and was 2-3 with a 6.44 ERA and 42 hits allowed in 29 1-3 innings in July.

"I know it's not the best ERA in the league, but there's two months left in the season and I've got 10 wins," Hernandez said in a phone interview. "That's pretty good."


The 33-year-old Hernandez served as a Yoda of sorts for the rest of the Twins' baby-faced rotation, helping them through some rough times early in the year.

"He meant a lot," Slowey said. "He was a great veteran presence for us to look up to. He helped us a lot to get where we are right now."

General manager Bill Smith acknowledged as much, saying Hernandez "saved our rotation in the first two months of the season."

That provided little solace for Hernandez on Friday.

"I'm not happy because I came here in spring training, and now the team is a half-game behind in the division and nobody expected us to be there," Hernandez said. "It's, 'You do your job and get out of here.'

"And nobody told me nothing. I had to find out outside baseball that I've been released."

Smith said notifying Hernandez was "awkward" because instead of announcing the move Thursday night after an emotional win over the White Sox, officials decided to let the team celebrate and wait until the morning.

By the time Smith called Hernandez, he already knew.


"It's surprising," Hernandez said of the move. "It's something I never expected."

With Liriano knocking on the door in the minors, and opposing hitters knocking Hernandez around in July, Smith made the move after trying in vain to trade both Hernandez and Monroe on Thursday.

Hernandez was approaching several incentives for innings pitched in his one-year contract and said he told Smith that "he could keep the money. I don't need that. I want to continue to pitch and help the team make the playoffs."

Smith denied that the decision had anything to do with money, saying it only came down "to winning baseball games."

Now the Twins are hoping the addition of Liriano, who went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings before arm problems cut short his rookie year, can provide them with the juice to leapfrog the White Sox.

"You're always looking for a boost in trades and all those things," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Well, if Cisco comes up here and pitches the way he's capable of, it would be a huge boost for our baseball team."

They are taking a risk by cutting loose the only veteran in the rotation as the pennant race heats up, trusting that a group of five that are all 26 or younger won't fold under the pressure.

"I don't feel that we have anybody that's going to back away," Gardenhire said. "Whether they're going to be tested enough to get through a pennant race, the only way you can see that is to put them out there and let them go and that's what we're going to do."

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