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Updated: April 25th, 2012 6:44pm
Notebook: Ben Revere hopes to help spark Twins; SP woes detailed

Notebook: Ben Revere hopes to help spark Twins; SP woes detailed

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Ben Revere might not even unpack his suitcase.

Then again, he might wind up signing a six-month lease somewhere near Minneapolis.

He has no idea.

That's because Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire told Revere his latest call-up to the major leagues could last three days -- the span of Josh Willingham's paternity leave -- or it could last the whole season.

The Twins are leaving it open-ended for now.

"I was actually happy," Revere said about being optioned to Triple-A Rochester on April 14. "It was just a chance to get to play a little bit more. ... It was a chance to go down there and get some at-bats, get in shape, get my timing down, my rhythm."

Revere logged only 11 plate appearances through the first nine days of the season, and rather than have him sit on the bench the Twins sent him down to get regular at-bats.

Revere's replacement, outfielder Clete Thomas, homered in his Twins debut on April 15, but he has reached base only four times in 20 plate appearances since. Thomas has also struck out 12 times in his last 14 at-bats.

Revere was penciled in Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox as the left fielder and No. 8 hitter, and he is hoping to repeat what happened in the middle of last season.

Over a two month stretch from June 2 to July 29, the Twins went 33-19 and cut Detroit's AL Central lead from 16.5 to as low as five games.

During this torrid stretch the Twins had several players catch fire, including Revere, who -- perhaps not coincidentally -- was inserted into the starting lineup on June 2 and proceeded to hit .286/.324/.335 with 11 stolen bases over the next 39 games while turning hits into outs on a regular basis in the outfield.

His performance over that stretch certainly wasn't worth of any Silver Slugger awards, but his presence helped spark the team.

Revere made no promises on Wednesday, but he hopes to help ignite another spark.

"One person can't really win games for the whole club. It takes the whole team to do it, but coming up through the minor leagues they always called me the fire cracker -- getting things sparked up," Revere said. "Anything I can do, I'll go 110% -- anything I can do, whether it's make that diving play, get that routine run in. ...

"Hopefully we can start this thing again like we did last year."

Blackburn's shoulder, stuff both OK

Although he allowed five earned runs and threw 71 pitches in only three innings on Tuesday night, Nick Blackburn experienced no issues with his right shoulder, which tightened up on him in his start on April 14.

Blackburn made no excuses for his poor outing.

"I felt fine out there. My arm felt great. I was falling behind hitters and wasn't making pitches when I needed to," he said.

"Nights like this are unfortunately going to happen. It wasn't a fun one. Obviously I haven't been off to a great start this season. I'm not looking to change anything right now. Just keep working."

There was a noticeable difference in the movement of Blackburn's pitches this spring compared to the middle of last season, and that translated to more swings and misses in March.

MLB's Pitch F/X data supports this theory. Blackburn's two-seam fastball and curveball both have more downward movement while maintaining the same velocities. His stuff on Tuesday night against Boston wasn't quite as crisp as it was in his first two starts, but it was more crisp than in July of last year.

As a result, Blackburn's contact rate through three starts is 83% -- not quite the 76% rate he maintained in spring training, but better than the 89% career rate he carried into the season.

Will Blackburn be able to stay healthy and translate any of this to real success?

The jury is out.

Private meetings held last week

Last Wednesday the Twins designated infielder Luke Hughes for assignment due to a pitching numbers conundrum and also a lack of reserve players with minor league options.

Prior to that announcement in New York, according to league sources, Gardenhire and Ryan sat down with a few of the more inexperienced players to make it clear they needed to remain focused on improving.

There was a sense among many people within the organization last season that several players were content just being in the major leagues, which is why Gardenhire and Ryan did away with what they called "scholarship programs" this spring.

Starting pitching woes, in bullet-point form

• Twins starters entered Tuesday with a league-worst 6.73 ERA and only three quality starts in 18 tries. The next lowest ERA was the 4.89 mark posted by Colorado Rockies starters.

• Only 43% of pitches thrown by Twins starters have crossed through the strike zone, which ranks 28th in the major leagues.

• The Twins' 84% starter contact rate ranks as the sixth-highest in the majors, behind Oakland (88%). The White Sox (74%) have induced the most whiffs.

• Twins starters have struck out only 5.21 batters per nine innings, which ranks 27th.

• The 20 home runs allowed by Twins starters are tied with Toronto for the most in baseball.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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