It appears that after all the rhetoric the Twins office could spit out to explain or approach the situation otherwise, Francisco Liriano will probably have surgery of some sort on his elbow in the next week. This comes as no surprise to me, as he once again rested and tried to restrengthen his elbow, returned to the mound, and quickly found the pain reappearing.
Now, as I've written on here before, the program the Twins have Liriano on as a non-surgical option doesn't appear to even consider changing his mechanics or stopping him from throwing his slider, which puts the most violent stress on his elbow. If that's true, the Twins were very foolish in their approach.
Of course, it's pretty hard to know whether or not that happened. What we do know is despite the Twins repeating over and over again that the young pitcher and potential ace didn't need any surgery, he probably needs it now anyways. In the article I have linked, La Velle E. Neal writes that Liriano could have either an "exploratory operation" or Tommy-John surgery.
I have to believe the "exploratory operation" idea is unlikely and only comes up as a more positive alternative. If Liriano has Tommy-John surgery, he is all but out for next year. Much like micro-fracture surgery, Tommy-John has a long recovery time and there is no reason to expect him back for 2007.
I have to agree with Aaron Gleeman here. He thinks that this is not such a bad, not because losing him won't be a serious detriment to our chances in 2007, but because there is no point in taking more chances with a young pitcher with so much potential and an exciting future. Often, when pitchers have Tommy-John, they come back much stronger and sometimes even have a little extra on their fastball.
If you want proof, look no furter than last night's Game Three starter and winner, Chris Carpenter. Carpenter returned from the surgery, was throwing 96 MPH with his outstanding curve, and after returning with a good 2004 season, he won a Cy Young Award in 2005. In 645 1/3 innings since returning from surgery, he has allowed only 567 hits while strike out 543 and walking only 132. In that time, he is 51-18 with a 3.10 ERA.
Obviously, those are fairly impressive numbers. Carpenter is a good example of Tommy-John gone right. Joe Mays, for instance, is a guy who had the surgery and turned into a pumpkin immediately after. Of course, he was Joe Mays and after the surgery, he was still Joe Mays. Unfortunately, surgery wasn't going to change the fact that he was really never that good. Carpenter, on the other hand, was a 1st round pick who never quite found his stride with the Blue Jays, had surgery, and has now been the Cardinals ace for the last three seasons. Lirano is in the same boat. It's not hard to see that he has loads of talent and a live arm, but now it's a matter of protecting that arm.
Could Liriano follow the same path as Carpenter? I don't see why not, but I think its clear that the Twins need to stop messing around and get serious. The faster he has surgery, the better. He should have had it months ago, when he was first injured, but that's hindsight and the Twins weren't ready to lose his season. Now is the time to do the right thing for Liriano and the future of the team. Let's not forget, after all, that Johan Santana isn't too shabby either.