10 K's add to Liriano's 'dynamite' spring

Gibbons on starter: 'I think he's going to have a big, big year'

10 K's add to Liriano's 'dynamite' spring

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With the exception of one pitch Monday, it was a flawless performance by Blue Jays left-hander Francisco Liriano.

Ah, but that one pitch.

Liriano left an 0-1 fastball too high in the zone, and Twins first baseman ByungHo Park drilled it for a no-doubt two-run homer over the left-center-field fence in the fifth inning.

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Following the Blue Jays' 8-2 loss at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Liriano declared himself pleased after the 10-strikeout, one-walk performance, and he said he's on schedule to start the regular season. He allowed four hits in 4 2/3 innings.

"Physically, I felt great," said Liriano, who had a streak of five scoreless innings in Grapefruit League play until Park's blast. "Mentally, I'm trying to get myself ready for the season. I think I am there, on track. I like where I am."

Liriano, 33, was traded to the Blue Jays from the Pirates on Aug. 1, 2016. With Pittsburgh, he was 6-11 with a 5.46 ERA. With Toronto, he went 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA and worked out of the bullpen during the postseason.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he hopes Liriano can continue to give the team a veteran presence on the mound.

"I can't say enough good things about him,'' Gibbons said. "From the time he got here, he has done a heck of a job out there. I think he's going to have a big, big year, I really do. He's capable of that. Shoot, he has been dynamite this spring."

During Liriano's relatively short Blue Jays tenure, Gibbons said it's obvious that the key is fastball command.

"From what I've seen this spring, his command is really, really good," Gibbons said. "He can get in those ruts where he loses it a little bit. That might have [hurt him] in Pittsburgh.

"That's just his style. Sometimes, [command] deserts him. I have not seen that much here. He has been really, really good."

Liriano said he was too much off the plate in the first inning, when he issued a leadoff walk to Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. After Dozier stole second, he was thrown out trying to steal third. Meanwhile, Liriano assured there was no further trouble by striking out Twins left fielder Drew Stubbs and center fielder Byron Buxton.

"My location was better [after that]," said Liriano, who began his Major League career with the Twins, making the American League All-Star team in 2006. "I was trying to throw everything, changeup, slider, working both sides of the plate.

"The big thing was my location of the fastball was better. The changeup is coming along. Everything feels great. Location is the main thing."

Liriano, who threw 75 pitches and faced 18 batters in his third outing of the spring, said he's ready for even more work.

"I'd like to go 85 to 90 pitches," Liriano said. "I have gone 100 to 105 pitches before the season starts. That's good with me. I feel like I'm doing well, and I'm on schedule."

Joey Johnston is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Blue Jays on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.