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Updated: July 4th, 2012 2:42pm
After latest rough outing, Nick Blackburn is demoted to minors

After latest rough outing, Nick Blackburn is demoted to minors

by Judd Zulgad
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Nick Blackburn's latest rough outing for the Minnesota Twins not only cost him a spot in the starting rotation, it also cost him a spot on the big-league roster.

The team announced Wednesday afternoon that Blackburn has been optioned to Triple-A Rochester and that the contract of righthanded pitcher Casey Fien has been selected from the same team.

In 33 relief appearances for the Red Wings this season, Fien was 2-5 with a 4.30 ERA, having given up 22 earned runs in 46 innings. He had nine saves in 12 opportunities.

Fien, who signed as a minor league free agent last offseason, will join the Twins on Thursday in Detroit.

Blackburn gave up six runs and eight hits over four innings on Tuesday night against the Tigers and saw his earned-run average increase to 8.10 this season. The Twins won the game 8-6, their fifth victory in a row, but it was no thanks to Blackburn.

The Twins gave him a 6-3 lead to work with after three innings and he gave it right back.

"Unfortunately, I kind of expected it," Blackburn told the St. Paul Pioneer Press when asked about his demotion. "Unfortunately, it's what needed to happen.

"I'm not doing the team any good here. Hopefully I can get down there and get some confidence and do what I know I can do. I think the pitches are there, and the mechanics are better, but I just need to get the confidence to be able to go out and execute. That'll be the key for me."

Blackburn's dismal performance came a day after Liam Hendriks gave up four runs, six hits and four walks in four innings against the Tigers. That left the 23-year-old Hendriks with a 7.04 ERA and 0-7 in 12 career starts.

The Twins sent Hendriks to Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday and recalled Cole De Vries. De Vries will start Saturday in Texas.

Blackburn's next start was scheduled to be Sunday against the Rangers. The Twins reportedly did not make an immediate announcement about who would take his place in the rotation.

The Twins had ability to demote Blackburn because he still had a minor league option remaining and has fewer than five years of major league service time.

The Twins, however, had big plans for Blackburn when they signed him to a four-year, $14 million contract extension in March 2010.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd