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Poor mound or not, Blue Jays’ Liriano continues to deal this spring

Sportsnet logo Sportsnet 2017-03-21 Arden Zwelling
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DUNEDIN, Fla. — When Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Francisco Liriano threw his warm-up pitches Monday, he immediately sensed something wasn’t right with the mound. His landing area had a rut in it—a small dent that some pitchers like to have so they know they’re repeating their delivery in the right spot. Liriano hates the rut. He wants his landing area firm and flat. He finds he slips all over the place when it isn’t that way.

Liriano kicked at it, he gathered dirt with his feet, and he even called out the grounds crew between innings to try to improve the situation. None of it worked. And none of it mattered.

Pitching with his front foot sliding beneath him, Liriano seemed completely unbothered, striking out 10 Minnesota Twins over 4.2 innings as he continued to plow through spring training like a wrecking ball. Liriano now has a 1.86 ERA over 9.2 spring innings, striking out 18 while walking only two. And that doesn’t include the game he pitched on the minor league side, when he toyed with overmatched hitters who have never seen his kind of stuff in single- or double-A.

“I thought he was outstanding,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “I can’t say enough good things about him. He looks really good this spring. I think he’s going to have a big, big year. I really do. He’s capable of that.”

Liriano’s only trouble on the afternoon was a two-run homer off the bat of Byung-ho Park. Liriano was trying to locate a sinker down and away to the right-handed batter but the pitch stayed up, where Park was able to clobber it. But other than that, the Blue Jays lefty was absolutely dominant.

He got ahead with his fastball, locating it to both sides of the plate, and jamming it inside to right-handed batters. He mixed in some first-pitch change-ups and sliders, too, throwing them consistently for strikes. His slider was especially unhittable, as it has been all spring, and was the out pitch for several of his strikeouts.

“Everything feels great,” Liriano said. “Everything is coming out the way I want it to. Location is the main focus for me right now with the fastball. And it’s getting better.”

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