An extreme groundball pitcher in Oakland is almost always going to be worth a second look in deep settings. The problem with Paul Blackburn is that he lacks the swing-and-miss stuff to be a real difference maker. As a 24-year-old last season, Blackburn posted a 3.22 ERA and 1.26 WHIP over 58.2 innings despite just a 9.2 strikeout percentage (3.4 K/9). He did a good job of limiting the free passes (2.5 K/9) and keeping the ball on the ground (56.3 percent groundball rate), but even so, the estimators point to Blackburn being at least a run worse than his surface numbers would suggest (4.38 FIP, 4.76 xFIP, 5.15 SIERA). Blackburn missed the end of the season with a bone bruise in his wrist and hasn't thrown more than 142 combined innings in any season. Making matters worse, he's not guaranteed a starting job out of camp, even on a team like the A's.
Manager Bob Melvin said Blackburn (forearm) will be shut down from throwing for 10 days, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports. Forearm tightness prompted Blackburn to undergo an MRI on Thursday, though fortunately the tests revealed only a strain. He'll take some time off before resuming a throwing program, which will force him to open the season on the shelf. That said, given how stretched out he was before suffering the injury, Blackburn shouldn't need too much to get up to speed once he's able to resume throwing. In the meantime, Daniel Gossett appears to be the favorite to open the season in the rotation in his place.
An MRI on Blackburn's forearm revealed no structural damage, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. This is certainly encouraging news for Blackburn, as forearm tightness is often the precursor to a more serious ailment. The 24-year-old will now take some time off to let the discomfort subside before resuming a throwing program. He's still expected to open the season on the disabled list given how close it is to the start of the season, but he was close to being stretched out, so he seemingly won't need too much time to get up to speed once he's able to resume throwing. With Blackburn sidelined, Daniel Gossett will likely step into the team's rotation to open the season.
Blackburn is being examined by team doctors Thursday due to forearm tightness, Julian McWilliams of The Athletic Bay Area reports. This might help to explain the shellacking he took in Wednesday's spring game. Regardless of when the injury occurred, it seems like Blackburn will not be ready for the start of the season, though more information should be known in the coming days. As a result of this injury, Daniel Gossett appears to be in line for a rotation spot to begin the season.
Blackburn (0-3) allowed seven earned runs on seven hits and three walks over 3.1 innings in Tuesday's 8-2 Cactus League loss to the Dodgers. He struck out three. The numbers tell the story of how much of a step back the outing was, with solo home runs from Chris Taylor and Yasmani Grandal the most impactful of the five extra-base hits Blackburn allowed over his brief time on the mound. He blamed the rocky performance on trying to tweak multiple mechanical issues during the start, Susan Slusser of SFGate.com reports. "It was me just trying to fix too many things at once instead of focusing on what I should have focused on," Blackburn said. "I've been working on a lot of things all spring and then today, nothing was there, so it went through my head about four or five different things to fix and that's not the right place to do it." Despite the forgettable performance, Blackburn still figures to have a solid chance of earning a starting rotation spot, although the recent addition of veteran Trevor Cahill adds another potential candidate to the mix.
Blackburn, who struck out six and allowed two hits and one walk over four scoreless innings in a 6-2 Cactus League loss to the Mariners on Thursday, is making an impression in his bid for a rotation spot, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports. "It's not easy to come in and pitch three or four innings like that in the middle of the game, and he's been able to do it a couple of times," manager Bob Melvin said. "Kept the ball down, keeps it on the ground, that's what he does." Blackburn lowered his spring ERA to 3.86 with the impressive outing, which represented another positive step in his bid for a starting rotation spot. The 24-year-old right-hander has alternated a trio of scoreless efforts with a pair of appearances in which he's given up multiple earned runs this spring, but he's been able to miss plenty of bats on his way to 14 strikeouts over 14 innings. With Jharel Cotton (elbow) potentially facing a long-term absence, Blackburn's chances of securing a starting role appear especially strong at this point.