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Updated: March 30th, 2012 3:59pm
Notebook: Blackburn likely to start home opener; Hendriks in too?

Notebook: Blackburn likely to start home opener; Hendriks in too?

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Scott Baker was initially penciled in as the Minnesota Twins' starter for the home opener at Target Field on April 9, but elbow tendonitis has delayed his progress this spring.

Nick Blackburn is scheduled to pitch his final spring game on Wednesday, and then. ...

"Figure the math," pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "Five days after that, when is he throwing again?"

Monday, April 9 -- the home opener.

When asked which pitcher has impressed him the most so far this spring, Anderson did not hesitate to say, "Blacky." He also added Liam Hendriks' name into the mix. Signs point to Hendriks -- who held the Blue Jays scoreless on one hit in five innings Friday -- as a replacement for Baker or Jason Marquis when the Twins break camp.

Blackburn's outing Friday looked rough during stretches, but he managed to allow only two earned runs on five hits and two walks in five innings while striking out three and stretching out to 86 pitches.

Those two earned runs came on a monster home run to left field by Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross, who cleared the PedsOrtho.net advertisement that stretches about 40 feet high.

Warming up in the bullpen before his outing, Blackburn said his mechanics felt off. After a conversation with Anderson in the middle of his outing, he straightened things out.

"Today was as ugly as it's been," Blackburn said, "and the fact that I was able to do some damage control... But most importantly make an adjustment during a game. ...

"Even though this is a spring training game, you still have adrenaline facing a lineup like that, and the fact that you can make an adjustment in the game was a big thing for me right now. I don't think I could have done that a couple years ago."

Blackburn's start on Wednesday will likely come against the Twins' High-A affiliate, which means the right-hander finishes spring training with some pretty impressive peripheral numbers.

Including a "B" game on March 7, Blackburn has 16 strikeouts to just four walks in 19 innings. He also has induced whiffs on 25% of swings taken by opponents, which is far better than his 11% career rate.

Those numbers are relatively meaningless at the moment, considering the small sample size and the exhibition competition.

But, as Blackburn put it, "To have the confidence to go out there and know that I can locate and get guys out, and that action on my pitches, is good. It's been a positive spring for me."

Pavano doesn't plan to comment

One day after a report surfaced detailing an ex-classmate's attempt to extort Carl Pavano, that ex-classmate, Christian Bedard, released a statement to the Associated Press saying, "Pavano's sister, Michelle DeGennaro, contacted me on Facebook asking under what conditions would I not talk about my (emotional and physical) relationship with Carl."

When approached in the clubhouse on Friday morning, Pavano said he had no comment on the matter, and he added that he didn't plan to comment at any point in the future.

Bedard has not yet been charged with a crime, but police executed a search warrant of his home last week.

Pavano is still scheduled to start at jetBlue Park against the Red Sox on Sunday.

Today's result(s)

Red Sox 9, Twins 7
Twins 4, Blue Jays 1 in Dunedin


Twins' spring record: 17-13

• Pitching in front of general manager Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire, Hendriks lowered his spring ERA to 1.80 by throwing five scoreless innings against the Blue Jays. He walked one, allowed one hit and struck out two, and he's likely to be the Twins' fill-in starter if Jason Marquis can't make his first start of the regular season.

Justin Morneau went 1-for-3 with an RBI double off Red Sox flamethrower Daniel Bard -- a line drive that traveled to the fence in left-center field, even though shortstop Mike Aviles almost caught it. "Morneau had a great swing with two strikes -- a guy throwing about 96 to 97 miles an hour," said acting manager Scott Ullger. "That was really good to see. I'm sure he felt good about that swing."

Joe Mauer raised his spring batting average to .367 with two singles and a walk in three trips.

Numbers game

9: Groundouts induced by Hendriks, along with three flyouts.

4: Home runs this spring for Chris Parmelee, who went 2-for-3 with a homer and a walk in Dunedin.

1: Home run for Estarlin De Los Santos, who was called up from minor league camp to play against the Red Sox. De Los Santos also singled home a run.

2: Doubles in Dunedin for Aaron Hicks, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI in his second Grapefruit League game this spring.

Health report

• An MRI revealed an inflamed bursa in the back of Alexi Casilla's right knee, but no other structural damage. Casilla is considered day-to-day.

• RHP Kyle Waldrop was shut down after feeling more discomfort in his right elbow Thursday following a throwing session from 60 feet.

• Baker is scheduled to pitch in a Triple-A game at the Red Sox complex on Saturday morning, but it's likely he won't make his first regular-season start until mid-April. "We'll see what we do tomorrow," Anderson said. "He's got 60-some pitches tomorrow. We'll see how the ball comes out of his hand. ... He said something (last week) about he didn't feel like his arm speed was there. And I said, 'Well, you've taken three weeks to feel for everything, and you're not throwing the ball like you should. You're not going to have arm speed, so you've got to get after it. If it's not hurt, get after it. So we're anxious to see how the ball comes out of his hand." Anderson added, "Someone with an injury, as a coach, you cannot say, 'Get out and get it.' It's up to them, because if you say, 'Let's go,' and he blows it out, it's like, 'Well ...'"

Overheard

"I'm not good enough with it yet to say I start it in a specific place (to hitters). ... But I think it'll be good."
-- Matt Capps, referring to the split-fingered fastball he is now throwing.

On deck

Saturday: vs. Pirates, 12:05 p.m. RHP Anthony Swarzak vs. TBA
Sunday: @ Red Sox, 12:35 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano vs. TBA
Monday: @ Rays, 12:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano vs. LHP David Price

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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