MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano's first day as a member of the White Sox began by taking the same route to the ballpark he had navigated the past three seasons.
When he got to Target Field, however, he had to have someone point him toward the visitors' clubhouse.
It was the first item on what's likely to be a long list of changes for the left-hander, who was traded from the Twins to the White Sox on Saturday and will make his first start for Chicago against his former team on Tuesday night. Speaking to reporters in the vistors' dugout Monday afternoon, Liriano said he understood the business reasons for the move, but he was still trying to grasp the idea of pitching for Minnesota's biggest rival.
"I don’t want to get too excited, too nervous," he said. "I’m just going to go out there tomorrow, try to do my job and help the team win some ball games. Facing my old teammates my first game is weird, but you’ve just got to go out there and play.”
The 28-year-old has been one of the more confounding pitchers in the game since his All-Star rookie season in 2006, throwing a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider, but struggling enough with his mechanics and control that the Twins decided not to offer him a multi-year extension as he approached free agency. He will hit the open market after the year, but White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said over the weekend he thinks he can fix some things with Liriano's delivery, and Chicago is hoping it can get three great months out of Liriano.
"Those kinds of moves in the win-loss column are always motivational for guys," manager Robin Ventura said. "Playing for a different team, becoming a free agent, there are a lot of different aspects to it. We just want him to go out there and be himself."
Liriano was moved to the Twins' bullpen in early May after struggling for the first month of the season, but had a 3.68 ERA in 11 starts since returning from the bullpen at the end of May. He had a 2.84 ERA in the first 10 of those starts before the White Sox tagged him for seven runs last week.
Now, he'll be thrust into the middle of a pennant race for the first time since he was the top starter on the Twins' 2010 AL Central championship team. And while Liriano admitted there's more pressure in that kind of a situation, he also understood the opportunity before him.
"I’m not going to change everything," he said. "I’m just going to go out there and try to do my best and do my job and give the team a chance to win some ball games. If I do my part, they’re playing pretty good baseball right now. I just want to fit in and try to do my part.”