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02/28/10 10:58 PM EST

Gardenhire sets spring pitching rotation

Blackburn will start opener against Red Sox on Thursday

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Nick Blackburn will get the start in the Twins' Grapefruit League opener against the Red Sox this Thursday, manager Ron Gardenhire revealed on Sunday when he announced the starters for the club's first six exhibition games.

Gardenhire has already announced that Scott Baker will be the club's Opening Day starter with Carl Pavano likely to pitch the second game of the regular season followed by Blackburn and Slowey. So the early spring schedule is just to help line up pitchers for those slots and also to make sure everyone gets innings.

Here is how the starting pitching will stack up for the club's first three games, which are all against the Red Sox. Blackburn will get the start on Thursday night at City of Palms Park with Slowey backing him up. On Friday, Pavano will start in the Twins home opener at Hammond Stadium. Francisco Liriano will then get the start in Saturday's contest across town in Fort Myers.

Baker and Brian Duensing are each slated to start a contest on Sunday, March 7 as the Twins will take part in a split squad that day. They'll host the Yankees at Hammond Stadium for one contest while another group travels to Bradenton for a game against the Pirates.

The rotation then will reset next Monday, with Blackburn and Slowey pitching against the Orioles in Sarasota.

Glen Perkins, who will compete with Liriano and Duensing for the fifth spot in the rotation, is expected to back up one of the starters during the first couple games, although the exact date has not yet been determined.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.