By Joe Christensen
Francisco Liriano’s agent, Greg Genske, today confirmed a FoxSports.com report that the players’ union has agreed to investigate whether the Twins are violating the collective bargaining agreement by keeping the lefthander in the minors.
“I have not been informed that anything’s been filed,” Twins General Manager Bill Smith told the Star Tribune. “I’m not going to worry about it.”
Liriano has two years and 45 days of major league service time. A player needs three years of service time to qualify for arbitration, but of the players with between two and three years, the top 17 percent qualify for arbitration as “Super Twos.”
For Liriano, qualifying for arbitration would likely earn him more than $1 million in additional 2009 salary, but even if the Twins promoted him today, with 74 days remaining in the season, he would likely fall far short of the Super Two threshold.
“We contacted the players’ association and laid out the facts and they determined that it was reasonable cause to initiate an investigation,” Genske told the Star Tribune.
Asked if the team factors service time into roster decisions, Smith said, “Our only goal is winning games. That’s all it’s ever been.”
Added Genske: “All I will say is that we felt there were enough facts to warrant a contact with the players’ association and get them involved in the matter.”
After a sensational rookie season in 2006, Liriano underwent Tommy John elbow surgery. He returned to the big leagues for 14 days in April of this season but was sent back to Class AAA Rochester after going 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA.
Liriano has rebounded at Rochester, going 7-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his past 10 starts. But the Twins are 21-7 in their past 28 games and have been generally pleased with all five of their current starters.
“It’s a difficult situation,” Smith said. “I know [Liriano's] frustrated. I know he wants to get back to the big leagues. He’s a competitor. We’re thrilled to see how well he’s doing. In his last 10 starts, each one was a little bit better than his previous one.
“I have no doubt that he’s going to be a big part of this organization in the future.”
Smith compared Liriano to Denard Span, who was thriving at Rochester but had to wait for a promotion until a roster spot opened because of Michael Cuddyer’s injury.
“There is no timetable, and I think everyone understands that,” Smith said. “I speak to the agent [Genske], a lot more than I speak to Francisco.”
(*) Staff writer La Velle E. Neal III contributed to this story.