The left-hander is again a subject of trade speculation as he returns to the Rogers Centre on Friday night as the starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, who will try to end a nine-game losing streak in the opener of a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Tigers (36-46) lost 4-2 to the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon. The Blue Jays (37-43) had the day off after completing a 3-4 trip with a heartbreaking 7-6 loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday on Alex Bregman‘s two-run, walk-off homer.
Both teams are expected to trade some veteran players by the July 31 deadline for deals without waivers.
Liriano (3-3, 3.94 ERA) will face Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman (0-5, 6.80). Both pitchers will make their second start after returning from the disabled list.
The Blue Jays did trade Liriano on July 31 to the Astros, who went on to win the World Series. In the deal, Toronto received outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, who has become a regular.
Liriano signed with the Tigers as a free agent on Feb. 23.
He will make his 12th start of the season in the series opener. Liriano went on the DL with a strained right hamstring after making his start on May 26 and did not pitch again until Saturday when he took the loss at Cleveland, allowing three runs (two earned), four hits and three walks in four innings.
All of the runs came in a 40-pitch first inning. He did not allow another hit in the next three innings.
“I was rushing things,” Liriano said. “I hadn’t pitched in a while and I was trying to do too much, trying to do more than I can do, and I ended up missing pitches. … Everything feels great. Leg feels good, body feels nice.”
The 34-year-old has faced the Blue Jays seven times in his career, including five starts, going 1-4 with a 5.40 ERA. He last pitched against Toronto on Aug. 5 with Houston when he took the loss after allowing one run, one hit and one walk in two-thirds of an inning in relief.
In 18 career appearances, including 17 starts, at the Rogers Centre, Liriano is 8-4 record with a 4.03 ERA and 98 strikeouts.
Stroman also returned from the DL on Saturday when he allowed six hits and one walk while striking out five in five scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Angels. He did not factor in the decision of a game the Blue Jays won 4-1.
He had not pitched since May 8 because of inflammation in his right shoulder, a problem that shortened his spring training. Stroman believes that in retrospect he probably should have taken a couple of more weeks to build up the shoulder before starting to pitch in the regular season.
“When I’m going good, I feel like I’m pitching at 80, 85 percent and that’s where I’m at right now,” Stroman said. “Earlier in the season, I was max effort, I was pitching at 100 percent every pitch and now I’m back to being very free and easy. Once I’m free and easy, I can do whatever I want.”
Stroman said the shoulder “feels way better.”
“I’m moving way easier, I can pause, I can mess with my delivery now, I can do many things I wasn’t able to do previously in the year,” he added. “Feels great.”
In two career starts against the Tigers, he is 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA.
The Tigers won two of three games against the Blue Jays at Comerica Park on June 1-3. Detroit will try to win its first season series against Toronto since 2013. The Tigers lost two of three games at the Rogers Centre last season, the fourth straight series they have dropped in Toronto.