Anthony Swarzak replaces injured, ineffective Nick Blackburn in Twins’ rotation

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Nick Blackburn isn’t a particularly effective starting pitcher but the one thing he always does is throw strikes, so when the right-hander walked four of the first eight batters he faced yesterday something was obviously wrong.

He left the game in the second inning and is headed for the disabled list with a strained forearm, which Blackburn described as a “sharp” pain when speaking to reporters afterward.

Anthony Swarzak will replace Blackburn in the Twins’ rotation and it’s tough to imagine him not being an upgrade, as even before yesterday’s abbreviated outing Blackburn had a 7.20 ERA in his last 10 starts.

He also had a 5.00 ERA and .303 opponents’ batting average in 308 innings since the beginning of last season, so injury or not the struggles are nothing new for Blackburn. Minnesota owes Blackburn $4.75 million next season and $5.5 million in 2013, which is why you don’t give unnecessary contract extensions to mediocre pitchers with minuscule strikeout rates.

Sandy Alderson thinks Tim Tebow will play in the major leagues

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Based on his track record so far I don’t think Tim Tebow deserves to play in the major leagues on the merits. Not even close. But then again, I’m not the general manager of the New York Mets, so I don’t get a say in that.

Sandy Alderson is the general manager, so his say carries a lot of weight. To that end, here’s what he said yesterday:

Noting the Tebow experiment has “evolved” into something greater, general manger Sandy Alderson on Sunday said, “I think he will play in the major leagues.”

To be fair, Alderson is pretty up front about the merits of Tebow’s presumed advancement to the bigs at some point. He didn’t say that it’s because Tebow has played his way up. He said this:

“He is great for the team, he is great for baseball, he was phenomenal for minor league baseball last year. The notion that he should have been excluded from the game because he is not coming through the traditional sources, I think is crazy. This is entertainment, too. And he quietly entertains us . . . He benefits the Mets because of how he conducts himself. He’s a tremendous representative of the organization.”

I take issue with Alderson’s comment about people thinking he shouldn’t be in the game because of his background. Most people who have been critical of the Tebow experiment have been critical because there is no evidence that he’s a good enough baseball player to be given the opportunities he’s been given. I mean, he advanced to high-A last year despite struggling at low-A and he’s going to start at Double-A this year in all likelihood despite struggling in high-A. If he does make the bigs, it will likewise come despite struggles in Double-A and maybe Triple-A too.

That said: I don’t mind if they promote Tebow all the way up as long as they’re being honest about why they’re doing it and aren’t trying to get everyone on board with some cockamamie idea that Tebow belongs on the baseball merits. If they do put him in the majors it’ll be because he’s a draw and a good promotion and because people generally like him and he’s not hurting anyone and I can’t take issue with that.

That’s basically what Alderson is saying here and if that’s the case, great. I mean, not great, because Tebow in the bigs will likely also mean that the Mets aren’t playing meaningful games, but great in the sense of “fine.” Baseball is entertainment too. No sense in pretending it isn’t.