Clayton Blackburn's 2016 season was a step in the wrong direction. He failed to build off a strong 2015 campaign and regressed below his career marks in ERA (4.36), walks (2.3 BB/9) and strikeouts (6.7 K/9). While the Giants would like to look at one of their younger pitching arms to step into their fifth starter spot next season, Blackburn appears to have removed himself from the conversation (at least to start the year) due to his poor performance this past season.
Blackburn was traded to the Rangers on Sunday. In return for Blackburn, the Rangers sent Frandy De La Rosa to the Giants, along with cash considerations. Blackburn pitched one game at Triple-A Sacramento this season, during which he allowed five runs over three innings. Blackburn will begin his time with Texas at Triple-A Round Rock.
Blackburn was designated for assignment by the Giants on Tuesday. Blackburn was DFA'd in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Tim Federowicz, who was called up to serve as backup catcher to Nick Hundley while Buster Posey is on the 7-day DL. He posted a 4.36 ERA with a 101:35 K:BB across 136.1 innings at Triple-A last season. The 24-year-old will likely garner some interest on waivers.
Blackburn was optioned to minor league spring training Sunday, CSN Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reports. Blackburn had an outside chance of making the 25-man roster this spring, but he wasn't able to impress with a 6.23 ERA over 8.2 innings of work. He will likely join Triple-A Sacramento to start the year and be called upon should injuries strike San Francisco's rotation during the regular season.
Blackburn started Saturday's tilt against the Royals, firing a pair of shutout innings while striking out three and walking one. Blackburn was coming off of a rough outing against the Padres on Tuesday, where he surrendered three runs in his two innings of work. Saturday's strong performance brought his spring training ERA back down the 4.50 over six innings. The Giants technically have one starting rotation spot open and two in the bullpen (one as a long man), but Blackburn is considered a long shot to make the 25-man rotation barring an unforeseen injury. Even if he isn't with the big club on Opening Day, the 24-year-old is considered one of the options who are next in line for a call-up, along with Tyler Beede and Ty Blach.
With three different pitching spots available heading into spring training, Blackburn will need to prove himself to earn a spot on the 25-man roster. The Giants currently have the fifth starter, long relief and final middle reliever jobs open for competition and Blackburn could potentially fill any of those roles. He may have been a top consideration had he not had such a poor 2016 campaign. After steadily improving his ERA with each level advancement, the righty took a big step back last season, posting a 4.36 ERA with a career-worst 6.67 K/9. He would have to really show something in Arizona to have a shot to make the 25-man roster.
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