Nick Blackburn has one-and-half seasons and $8 million remaining on the contract extension the Twins misguidedly gave him in March of 2010, but today Minnesota sent the 30-year-old veteran and his 131 career starts to Triple-A.
Blackburn was never a particularly good bet to sustain long-term success because of his miniscule strikeout rate, but injuries have eliminated whatever thin margin for error he already had and basically turned him into a batting practice pitcher.
Since signing the contract extension he’s started 65 games with a 5.51 ERA and 4.2 strikeouts per nine innings while allowing opponents to hit .309 with a .500 slugging percentage.
Career minor leaguer Casey Fien has replaced Blackburn on the roster, but the Twins haven’t said yet who’ll take over his rotation spot.
Last night’s Angels-Astros game was a long affair with a bunch of homers and the use of 11 pitchers in all. The Angels used six pitchers and all of that business led to plenty of conferences. Six, in fact, which is their allotment under the new rule capping mound visits. As far as I can tell, that makes the Angels the first team to use up all of their mound visits since the advent of the rule.
Sadly, they did not try to go for a seventh, thereby testing the currently unknown limits of the rule. Umpires have been instructed to not allow additional mound visits, but they cannot issue balls or tackle anyone or anything to enforce it. Presumably, if Maldonado had walked out to talk to Cam Bedrosian about the weather or where he was going to dinner after the game, the home plate umpire would’ve simply done the old Robin Williams English policeman’s bit of yelling “Stop! . . . or I shall yell ‘Stop!’ again!” Maybe a fine would issue later, but we’ll never know.
At least until someone breaks the limit. And we know someone will, right? We should have a betting pool on who does it.