Nick Blackburn frustrated after pelting: 'Every time it's a home run'
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Nick Blackburn, understandably, was not happy after Wednesday's drubbing by the Chicago White Sox.
Blackburn was pelted for six earned runs on nine hits in five innings, with the big blow coming in the fifth inning when Adam Dunn launched a three-run bomb into the left-field upper deck. Alex Rios followed with a solo shot just seconds later.
In the end, Blackburn was left with another slow walk back to the dugout and a 7.74 ERA through the first three months of the season -- perhaps the worst three-month stretch of his professional career.
"I can't begin to explain how frustrated I am right now," Blackburn said. "It's like I'm not getting very many breaks. Guys go through streaks like that, but it's not fun. I can guarantee you I'm not enjoying myself right now."
Blackburn has spent much of the past three seasons trying to regain his form from 2008 and 2009 when he posted an ERA just over 4.00 and averaged just a shade under 200 innings per season.
He has pitched well for stretches -- a month here, three weeks there, and even a solid run of 15 starts to open last season where his ERA dipped to 3.15 on June 22.
But since that high point last June Blackburn has fallen out of the sky with no help from a parachute. In 23 starts since June 22, 2011 Blackburn owns a 7.40 ERA with 165 hits and 20 home runs allowed in 110 2/3 innings.
Only Baltimore's Brian Matusz (7.42) has a higher ERA over the past calendar year than Blackburn.
"The guys are having to score seven or eight runs to get me a win," Blackburn said. "That's not good. I mean, when you're going five innings every outing, six innings maybe, something's got to change. ...
"I'll go out there and feel fine, feel effective. But like I said, I'll leave a couple balls up and every time it's a home run, and it's usually costly."
The feeling among Twins decision-makers this spring was that Blackburn -- 100% recovered from offseason forearm surgery -- would likely go back to being the solid, groundball-inducing innings-eater this season that he was during the first half of last year.
Spring numbers are generally irrelevant, but a healthy arm and slight tweaks to Blackburn's mechanics helped him induce more swings and misses than any starter in camp other than Francisco Liriano.
Shoulder stiffness in April and a quad strain in May temporarily limited Blackburn on the mound, but as of Wednesday health was not an issue.
"Health-wise it's fine. Everything feels good. I feel like I'm strong out there, I feel like my delivery is where it should be," Blackburn said. "I think earlier in the season because the little injuries here and there were keeping me from getting through my mechanics and get through my delivery the way I'm supposed to -- that's not the case now. I go out there and I feel like my mechanics are good.
"I haven't, since I came back from the DL, felt like I was at any point battling my mechanics, which is a lot of times my issue. It just comes down to execution."
Blackburn, who is currently in the third year of a four-year, $14 million contract, helped his cause in two starts prior to Wednesday's disaster by inducing 17 and 15 groundballs against the Phillies and Brewers, respectively.
For now, he'll remain in the rotation.
"This was a bad start for him today," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But he's battled better, we've liked what we've seen. Today was not one of them. ...
"There's not many options. Some of these guys have to get people out. We brought them here to do that, we signed them here to do that. They have to get outs."