Q&A with Twins Starter Nick Blackburn

blackburn-10mm.jpg

In 2008 and 2009 the Twins knew exactly what they were getting from Nick Blackburn. In each season, the righthander started 33 games and posted an 11-11 record. His ERA meanwhile, fluctuated from 4.05 to 4.03.

In 2010, everything changed. After a slow April, Blackburn caught fire in May winning all five of his starts and compiling a 2.65 ERA. “Blackie” appeared headed for a career year. Then the calendar turned to June and Blackburn went 1-4 with a 10.65 ERA for the month. That led to the 4-year veteran’s removal from the rotation and eventual demotion to Triple A.

Blackburn regained his form at Rochester, was recalled on August 21 and has pitched well since, giving up only 6 earned runs in 31 2/3 innings. The 28-year-old righthander was nice enough to chat with me about his tumultuous season during last week’s homestand.

DZ: Since you’ve been back up here, things have been going pretty well for you. I image your pretty happy, could you talk about that?

BLACKBURN: I went down to Rochester, got some mechanical issues figured out, got some confidence back in my pitches – my change-up – used it a lot when I was down there. It’s just kind of carried over since I’ve been back up here. I’ve moved the sinker around a lot more; it’s coming out of my hand more consistently and has a better break to it. That’s what is working for me right now.

DZ: Were your problems mostly just mechanical?

BLACKBURN: Yeah, I would say it was pretty much all mechanical. (I) went down there and was just able to relax and work on my mechanics and I think that is what got me back right.

DZ: Obviously nobody wants to go back down (to the minors), but is there anything positive you can take away from that experience?

BLACKBURN: Absolutely, the fact that I was able to go down and realize all that I needed to do was relax and do what I had done in the past with my mechanics which is keeping myself on a straight line to the plate and not try to do too much with the ball. That’s all there is to it. I think I’ll be able to always use that as kind of a guideline to work back on if I do start to struggle again: “What did I do when I went to Triple A and worked on everything?” I think that will be something I can just look back on and hopefully learn from.

DZ: When a guy like you who has a lot of major league experience goes down there, how do the guys react to you? Do they ask a lot of questions?

BLACKBURN: Not really. Obviously a little bit, but I think for the most part in most clubhouses guys are just trying to relax and just want to goof around more. Obviously occasional questions would come up, but for the most part it was just like I was another teammate who had been there all year. I had known quite a few of those guys from spring training and from years in the past, so there were a lot of good buddies down there. It was just a good vibe, it was good to go down there and relax and start working on stuff again.

DZ: Did you keep communication with the guys up here?

BLACKBURN: I talked to some of them. Not a whole lot – I know they have their stuff going on up here and different schedules and all of that stuff. You kind of lose touch, but I definitely heard from the guys every once and a while.

DZ: In your personal life, it’s been a big year - your wife just had a baby. How’s that going, how did that change your life?

BLACKBURN: It’s been unbelievable. I am going home tomorrow to go see her a little bit, to spend some time with her. It’s been great. It’s been more exciting than I ever expected. It’s been a lot of fun.

DZ: Going back…in May you were firing on all cylinders and were one of the best pitchers in the league pretty much. It seemed like when the calendar turned to June, you didn’t have the same touch. Are there any mental aspects that go with that?

BLACKBURN: Yeah some of it has to be mental. You start to doubt yourself after so many bad outings…when they start to pile up like they were. Some of that had to do with some soreness in my elbow. Dealing with that can sometimes alter your mechanics a little bit. I think that’s probably what happened. And before I knew it, it had been so long since I had been throwing the ball the way I was used to and the way I should be, I think that I forgot how to. And then we started trying to make the adjustments, but we just weren’t doing the right ones up here. That’s what was going on and once I got to Triple A, I was able to reflect back and start over.

See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players:

September 7: Brian Fuentes
September 5: Randy Flores
August 23: Matt Capps
August 19: Brian Duensing
July 29: Jesse Crain
July 23: Ron Mahay
July 21: Danny Valencia
July 11: Michael Cuddyer
July 8: Jason Repko
July 5: Nick Punto
June 12: Jason Kubel
June 9: Drew Butera
May 11: Denard Span
April 25: Justin Morneau
April 22: Alex Burnett
April 21: Mike Redmond
April 16: J.J. Hardy

One Response to “Q&A with Twins Starter Nick Blackburn”

  1. Q&A with Twins Rookie Outfielder Ben Revere » MinnesotaSCORE Says:

    […] 14: Nick Blackburn September 7: Brian Fuentes September 5: Randy Flores August 23: Matt Capps August 19: Brian […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.