FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - Francisco Liriano is confident his 2012 season will be more consistent than his last.
He gave signs Thursday he may be right.
The left-hander struck out five of the nine batters he faced in in three scoreless innings but the Minnesota Twins lost 1-0 loss to a Tampa Bay Rays split squad.
``Nothing's bothering me right now, so it's going to be quite different from last year,' Liriano said.
Desmond Jennings was the only Rays player to get a hit off Liriano and the leadoff hitter had two of Tampa Bay's four hits.
``I feel good. I feel good,' Jennings said. ``Just glad I'm playing. Hopefully, I'll get better as camp goes on.'
Liriano was feeling good, too. Last season was an up-and-down year because of inconsistency and injury that was right in step with an up-and-down career.
The six-year veteran, who has mixed good starts with frustrating defeats ever since breaking through with a 12-3 record and 2.16 ERA in 2006, went 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA last season despite throwing a no-hitter on May 3 against the White Sox.
Liriano attributed much of the struggle to nagging injuries, including the shoulder strain that ended his season in August.
``I battled it through the whole year,' Liriano said. ``Like two days before spring training I got hurt, so I worked out in Miami. I tried to battle through it the whole year; it was getting better, but it was just a battle the whole year.'
This spring, he has focused much of his attention on locating his fastball to add a potent second option to his deadly slider. That work was evident Thursday.
``I'd say that's a pretty good day - he only threw four sliders in 34 pitches,' said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. ``He controlled the game out there.'
The Rays also got quality innings from their starter, 23-year-old prospect Chris Archer. In his first spring start, Archer gave up one hit and two walks through two scoreless innings.
With two runners on base and none out in the first, Archer was able to force flyballs from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and a groundout from Josh Willingham to get out of the inning.
``It was nice, because I've never faced guys of that caliber on a consistent basis,' Archer said. ``Facing those guys back-to-back with runners on base, it was definitely nice to be in there and get those guys out.'
The game's lone run came in the top of the ninth, when Rays infielder Hak-Ju Lee scored on Luke Hughes' throwing error to first base.
The only bright spot on offense for the Twins was leadoff hitter Denard Span, who continued to have a good spring after struggling with post-concussion symptoms through much of last year. The outfielder went 1 for 2 and stole two bases.
``Neither team had a lot of offense to talk about,' Gardenhire said. ``Let's call that good pitching.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved