03/27/08 6:30 PM ET
Blackburn waiting in Twins' wings
Readiness of Liriano, Baker could leave him in or out of rotation
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
One slight concern for the Twins had been whether Blackburn could stretch out enough to be ready for the start of the season. That didn't appear to be a problem, as he threw 70 pitches in this latest start, leaving him projected to be somewhere around 80-85 pitches for that first regular-season outing.So Blackburn's future likely rests on the Liriano decision. Still, there is always a chance that he could also take the place of right-hander Scott Baker if Baker begins the year on the disabled list. After Baker threw 49 pitches in a three-inning Minor League start Wednesday, the Twins are optimistic he'll be ready to go. A final decision on Baker won't be made until after he pitches again Sunday in a Minor League contest in Fort Myers, Fla. Due to the fact the rotation is still unsettled, it's unclear just how the starters will fall into line for the first week of the season. Gardenhire had originally said the first three starts would go to Livan Hernandez, Boof Bonser and Kevin Slowey -- in that order -- but that has changed slightly. Gardenhire said if Blackburn is in the rotation, he possibly could start in the season's third game on Wednesday against the Angels. That would put Slowey, who is scheduled for his final spring start Saturday, in line for next Thursday, with Baker likely to pitch Friday against the Royals. That, of course, would all change if the team takes Liriano north. Still, while it's been a wait-and-see process for Blackburn, he doesn't seem to be too upset by the uncertainty so late in camp. "It's exciting to know that you are in the race and know that you are this close to making the team," Blackburn said. "Whether or not I make it, I feel like I've had a good spring and it's going to help with my confidence a lot." Blackburn, 26, may be patient and his belongings might all fit onto whatever plane he takes, but the Twins made most of their cuts earlier this week so that players' vehicles could be sent to the right place. So where is the right-hander's car now? "It's back in Oklahoma," Blackburn said. "My mom keeps asking me where they should take it to and I said, 'I don't know.' I guess I'll just be bumming rides wherever I go for the first month."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.