Tag:Nick Blackburn
Posted on: May 25, 2011 1:56 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: The Unusual Suspects



By Matt Snyder


On a night that featured marquee pitching names like Justin Verlander, Dan Haren, Josh Beckett, CC Sabathia, Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, we've got a 3 Up that features ... none of them.

Nick Blackburn, Twins. As noted in On Deck, the Twins were in danger of tying a franchise record in consecutive home losses -- matching a team that wasn't even in Minnesota or called the Twins. Against the red-hot Mariners (which just sounds weird, but they had won six in a row), Blackburn went out and spun a complete-game gem. He gave up seven hits and two earned runs while striking out six. He needed 127 pitches, but most importantly finished the game himself -- a huge deal with the way the back-end of the bullpen has been unreliable this season. This was a case of a pitcher going out and taking matters into his own hands to stop a losing streak.

Guillermo Moscoso, A's. So, let's see ... one of baseball's elite pitchers vs. a pretty terrible offense ... and on the other side? A man making his first big-league start who had a 4.02 minor-league ERA prior to Tuesday. Who wins? This is why baseball is awesome. Of course Moscoso held the Angels scoreless on just three hits in six innings of work while Dan Haren coughed up five earned runs in seven innings against the American League's 13th-ranked offense.

Ricky Nolasco, Marlins. Obviously, Nolasco is a bit more established than the two hurlers listed above, but his outing in these circumstances was very solid. The Marlins had lost three of their last five and have seen ace Josh Johnson hit the disabled list. They were facing the defending world champs, who had recently regained their mojo in a five-game winning streak and were running out their formidable No. 2 starter in Cain. Also, while Nolasco has been good, he hasn't been great this season. Tuesday night, however, Nolasco was great for eight innings. He took a five-hit shutout into the ninth inning. Sure, things unraveled a bit in the ninth and Leo Nunez was needed for the save, but Nolasco still let the rest of the bullpen rest and put forth a big effort for the Marlins. They also again moved to within a game of first place in the NL East.



The New York Mets. So the players spent the entire day answering questions in Wrigley Field's cramped locker room about their loose-lipped owner. So what? Professional players wouldn't allow that to effect performance, right? Tuesday night, the Mets did their best to disprove that. They lost 11-1 to a Cubs team that has had trouble scoring runs. Jonathon Niese gave up six runs, but only two were earned thanks to an embarrassing display by Ruben Tejada, Ronny Paulino and company in the second inning. Still, Mets' pitchers in all allowed 13 hits and six earned runs. Meanwhile, the offense was stymied for seven innings by a pitcher (Ryan Dempster) who entered the game with a 6.91 ERA in 56 innings. Jason Bay left the game with an injury, too. The Mets have now lost three in a row after hitting .500 and look closer than ever to a firesale. Between the injuries and the ownership situation, it's hard to not feel sorry for Mets fans.

Nationals' bullpen. Monday night, the Nationals' bullpen let the game get away from itself, allowing four runs in three innings. Tuesday, it blew the game, again allowing four runs in three innings. This time around it was worse, of course, because the Nats actually had a lead before the implosion. They've now lost four in a row and six of seven.

Ryan Madson, Phillies. Everyone has bad nights. Just in case we'd forgotten, Madson went out and proved it Tuesday night. The right-hander entered the game with nine saves, two wins, a 0.47 ERA, 23 strikeouts in 19 innings and about as few blemishes as you could possibly have at this point in the season. Tuesday night he was tagged with three earned runs and the loss. The funny thing was, he gave up two infield hits and an intentional walk to load the bases. You can't much blame a pitcher for that. But the big blow -- a rocket of a double by Jay Bruce -- was certainly Madson's fault. And though Bruce entered the game scorching hot, he was 0-4 with three strikeouts before the at-bat Tuesday. So we'll say this outing by Madson was a tad bit understandable, but not good.

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Posted on: May 24, 2011 4:28 pm
Edited on: May 25, 2011 12:57 am
 

On Deck: Beckett looks to slow down Indians

OD

By Matt Snyder


Are we in for a low-scoring night? From established aces like Justin Verlander and Dan Haren to up-and-comers like Jhoulys Chacin and Zach Britton, there are plenty of solid arms in action Tuesday night. In fact, there are 21 starting pitchers on the schedule with ERAs below 3.50 and 10 below 2.75 -- and this excludes Josh Collmenter (0.69) and Jorge De La Rosa (3.34), as the Rockies and Diamondbacks are already underway. Granted, some of the guys included are small samples like Johnny Cueto and Vance Worley, but it's still quite a night for good pitching.

Beckett vs. Red-Hot Tribe: It's pretty safe to say the Indians have been on a hot streak for the entire season, or at least at home. The Indians are the best team in baseball at 30-15 but are a ridiculous 19-4 at home. Asdrubal Cabrera stands out as the star of the team at this point, but he hasn't been carrying them or anything. This is a true team in every sense. Trying to slow the Indians down is Josh Beckett, in what should be a good battle. Beckett brings in an AL-best 1.73 ERA. He lost his first start of the season at Cleveland but has been on a different level since then, sporting a 1.38 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings. In four of those eight starts, he has allowed zero runs. In two more, he's allowed just one. Unstoppable force vs. immovable object? We'll see. Fausto Carmona (3-4, 4.76) toes the slab for the Tribe. Boston at Cleveland, 7:05 p.m. ET.

Opposite Directions: As Stats, Inc. pointed out Tuesday afternoon (via Twitter), the Twins are looking to avoid their longest home losing streak since they weren't even the Twins. A loss against the Mariners Tuesday evening would mark the 10th straight in Target Field and would match a franchise high ... with the 1957 Washington Senators. As always, the Twins entered the season with high expectations, but they're clearly the worst team in baseball at 15-31. Meanwhile, the Mariners are riding high. They were the consensus last-place prediction in the AL West heading into the season. But after six consecutive victories, they trail the Rangers by just 1 1/2 games in a division that seems completely up for grabs. For Tuesday night, it will be Doug Fister (2.93 ERA and 1.29 WHIP) for the Mariners vs. Nick Blackburn (3.40 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) of the Twins. As Monday night proved, however, the starting pitchers may not be what determines the outcome. Seattle at Minnesota, 8:10 p.m. ET.

Reeling Reds: After sweeping the Cardinals and Cubs at home by the middle of last week, the Reds were sitting pretty. They had won 11 of 13 overall and appeared to be opening up a decent lead in the NL Central. Then they lost two to the Pirates at home and were swept at Cleveland. After a 10-3 drubbing on Monday night at the hands of the Phillies, the Reds had lost six in a row and are now 3 1/2 games behind the Cardinals. Johnny Cueto (1.45 ERA in three starts) takes the hill and will attempt to stop the bleeding for Cincy. His counterpart will be Philly's rotation replacement Vance Worley, who has been stellar this season in somewhat limited action (1.13 ERA in 16 innings). Someone on the Reds you may not have noticed as they've been losing is Jay Bruce. The 24-year-old outfielder is white hot. He's gone 11-18 (.611) with four home runs, six RBI, five runs and a 1.983 OPS in his last five games. Cincinnati at Philadelphia, 7:05 p.m. ET.

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Posted on: April 16, 2011 1:18 am
 

3 up, 3 down for 4/15: Charlie in charge

By Matt Snyder

3UP

Charlie Morton, Pirates. He was one out away from a shutout of the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Jay Bruce homered, but that didn't stop Morton from finishing the complete-game gem. He only gave up five hits and two walks while suffocating a pretty solid offense (granted, Brandon Phillips was out). He entered the game with a 2.08 ERA, but had walked 10 hitters with only three strikeouts. Friday, Morton improved significantly, striking out three to those two walks.

Justin Masterson, Indians. That ERA now reads 1.33. Masterson held down the Orioles through seven innings, only giving up four hits and a run. He has been absolutely brilliant thus far in 2011, as has his team. The Indians are 9-4 and tied for first with the Royals (what is this, the bizarro AL Central?).

Cardinals offense. Lance Berkman was supposed to be cooked, instead he's hit six home runs this week, after his two-HR night Friday. Albert Pujols was scuffling a bit to open to the season, but everyone with a brain knew it was only a matter of time. Well, that time has arrived. He's hit three homers in his past two games, including two Friday night. Colby Rasmus, Yadier Molina, David Freese and Matt Holliday are raking and the Cardinals are now the first team since the 2000 Tigers to collect at least 15 hits in four straight games. During that span, they've scored 43 runs.

3DOWN

Bobby Jenks, Red Sox. Pretty disgusting outing for the big man. It reads: walk, single, strikeout, single, single, single -- with a stolen base and wild pitch intertwined. He left with just 1/3 of an inning worked while having allowed four runs. The 2-10 Red Sox lost by one. But don't take my word for how bad Jenks was, you can get it straight from the horse's mouth: "I flat out stunk tonight." (Boston Herald )

Nick Blackburn, Twins. It still amazes me how quickly he nailed down a rotation spot in the spring while Kevin Slowey was sent to the bullpen. But we're past that now. Friday night, against a Rays lineup with Matt Joyce and Felipe Lopez making up the 3-4 hitters, Blackburn was shelled. He coughed up 10 hits and five earned runs in six innings, as the Twins fell to 4-9.

Erik Bedard, Mariners. I'm glad he's healthy, because no one should wish all the rehab he's gone through the past few years on anyone. Still, Bedard is clearly struggling to work back to form. He needed 106 pitches just to get through 4 2/3 innings, while giving up seven hits, three walks and four earned runs. This was against a Royals lineup sans Alex Gordon and Wilson Betemit (before you laugh, check out their numbers thus far).

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Posted on: March 6, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2011 12:59 pm
 

With Blackburn in is Slowey out?

By C. Trent Rosecrans

With Nick Blackburn in the Twins' rotation, so Kevin Slowey may be out -- not just out of the rotation, but out of Minnesota.

Blackburn has been told by manager Ron Gardenhire that he's earned a spot in the rotation, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes, leaving Slowey and Scott Baker to compete for the fifth spot. Gardenhire said he'd like to add top prospect Kyle Gibson to that list, but doesn't believe the front office will let him.

Kevin SloweyAccording to ESPN.com's Buster Olney, the Twins are open to offers for Slowey (pictured). Slowey, 26, was 13-6 with a 4.45 ERA in 28 starts (and two relief appearances last season. Slowey is making $2.7 million this season and has two more years of arbitration remaining and is 39-21 with a 4.41 ERA in his four years in the big leagues.

Slowey has made two starts this spring, allowing four hits and three runs in five innings. On Friday, Slowey threw three scoreless innings. 

Baker, 29, had arthroscopic elbow surgery in October and is scheduled to make his second spring appearance on Monday.  He gave up two hits and a run in 1 2/3 innings in his first outing. Baker is in the third year of a four-year, $15.25 million deal, with a team option for 2013. Last season he was 12-9 with a 4.49 ERA and he's one at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons. He's 55-42 with a 4.32 ERA in his six seasons with the Twins.

Slowey's age and contract situation make him more attractive to other teams.

Gibson has made two outings this spring, giving up three hits and two runs in two innings. The 23-year-old right-hander pitched at three levels last season, going 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA, with the bulk of his work (16 of 26 starts) coming at Double-A, where he was 7-5 with a 3.68. He made three Triple-A starts, going 0-0 with a 1.72 ERA there.

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Posted on: March 5, 2011 4:56 pm
 

Twins' rotation rounding into shape

By Matt Snyder

Nick Blackburn will be in the starting rotation for the Twins this season, manager Ron Gardenhire said Saturday (Minneapolis Star-Tribune ), meaning Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey are in a head-to-head battle for the fifth and final spot. The news came after Blackburn threw three perfect innings against the Rays.

Wednesday, Brian Duensing was given a spot by Gardenhire, making him the third member of the rotation behind ace Francisco Liriano and re-signed Carl Pavano.

Blackburn went 10-12 with a 5.42 ERA last season in 161 innings, but had offseason surgery to clean up his elbow. He's looked sharp in the spring, especially with his sinker.

Duensing went 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA last season. He closed in the rotation, starting 13 of his last 14 appearances after he joined the rotation. As a starter, he was 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA. His 85 2/3 innings meant he averaged about 6 2/3 innings per start, and that was after coming out of the bullpen for the first part of the season.

The Baker vs. Slowey battle shows just how deep the Twins are with starting pitching. Baker is just two seasons removed from an 11-4, 3.45 ERA and 1.18 WHIP campaign. Last season, he battled inconsistency -- and minor health issues -- to a 12-9 mark with a 4.49 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Slowey is one year removed from a season where he went 10-3, but his ERA was 48.6 and WHIP was 1.41. He was 13-6 last year with a 4.45 ERA, but has had issues getting knocked around, as he's allowed 10 hits per nine innings throughout his career. His control is solid, though, as he only walked 29 guys in 155 2/3 innings last year.

Baker was 5-0 in his last 10 starts last season and, like Blackburn, underwent a procedure to clean up his throwing elbow in the offseason.

Baker has a slightly better track record than Slowey, but that doesn't always decide the winner in spring training battles. Either way, the Twins have six legitimate major-league starting pitchers. Many teams would surely trade places.

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Posted on: February 10, 2011 9:48 am
 

Twins considering trading Liriano

Francisco Liriano Because, I guess, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra have worked out so well for the Twins, the team is apparently open to dealing ace Francisco Liriano, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes .

Liriano, 27, is a free agent after the 2012 season and the team doesn't appear interested in signing him to a long-term deal, Christensen writes. The two sides avoid arbitration last week, but Liriano's side was looking for a three-year, $39 million contract.

Last season, Liriano was 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 31 starts. He struck out 201 in 191 2/3 innings. He was also second in the majors in xFIP at 3.06, behind Roy Halladay. Liriano has a history of arm injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2006.

In 2008, the Twins had a left-handed ace they couldn't sign in the last year of his contract in Johan Santana, receiving just the aforementioned Gomez, Humber, Mulvey and Guerra in return for the left-hander from the Mets. The thought with Liriano is that they can receive more with more time left under team control.

The Twins have five other starters -- Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey -- and their top prospect, Kyle Gibson, is a starter, so they see Liriano as replaceable and attractive to a team like the Yankees, who are looking to fill their rotation.

However, the Twins need Liriano to help compete in the AL Central and dealing him now doesn't help the team in pursuit of its first postseason series victory since 2002. None of their other five big-leaguers have the stuff Liriano does or the ability to dominate like he can.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: January 24, 2011 10:57 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:57 am
 

Twins must sort out starters

Brian Duensing
With the return of Carl Pavano, the Twins are faced with a problem any team would like to have: too many proven starting pitchers.

Minnesota heads into spring training with six pitchers who each won at least 10 games last season: Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing. All but one had both a winning record and an ERA under 4.50 (Blackburn, at 10-12, 5.42).

So who goes to the bullpen? That's not a decision the Twins have to make just yet, and might not have to make at all, because there are some unknowns. Blackburn and Baker both had arthroscopic elbow surgery after the season, and though both are projected to be fully ready to start spring training, there's always the possibility of a setback. Slowey also dealt with some injuries last season.

But if all six are good to go on opening day, who's the odd man out of the rotation? Duensing (pictured) has the most relief experience, making 40 appearances out of the bullpen last season, but the Twins liked what they saw from him down the stretch as a starter, when he went 7-2 with a 2.32 ERA. He also gives them a second left-hander to go with Liriano. Blackburn was the statistical weak link last season, but advanced stats (for example, a 4.62 xFIP) show he might have been better than his record, and should be due for a bounceback. Slowey's 39-21 record as a starter is going to buy him the benefit of the doubt.

Pitching coach Rick Anderson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune he's not complaining about his "problem."

“Hopefully they all stay healthy, and it’s a tough decision,” Anderson said.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: October 19, 2010 5:52 pm
 

Blackburn, Baker having arthroscopic surgery

Nick Blackburn Arthroscopic surgery seems to be popular in Minnesota these days.

Right fielder-turned-first baseman Michael Cuddyer underwent arthroscopic knee surgery once the season concluded, while starting pitcher Nick Blackburn had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow last Wednesday.

Now, Scott Baker is joining in on the fun with his own right-elbow arthroscopic surgery scheduled for this upcoming Wednesday as the Star Tribune reports.

"I've been dealing with it over the last couple years," Blackburn (pictured) said of his elbow injury that saw him finish with a 5.42 ERA in 161 innings, garnering a demotion to the minors at one point. "I think most pitchers in baseball have some stuff they're dealing with. We just decided to get it taken care of now."

Blackburn had a bone spur and other loose particles removed by team doctors, with no damage to ligaments.

"They just poked a couple holes in there and cleaned that stuff out," Blackburn said. "I've already got the same range of motion that I had before the surgery."

Meanwhile, Baker, who finished with a 4.49 ERA in 29 starts, will undergo surgery at the hands of Dr. David Altchek, the Mets physician who also operated on closer Joe Nathan's season-ending elbow surgery in spring training.

Blackburn, Baker and Nathan are all expected to be ready for spring training.

-- Evan Brunell

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