After exiting yesterday's 6-5 Twins win in the 5th inning with the score tied and just 76 pitches thrown, Twins starter Nick Blackburn told pitching coach Rick Anderson that his shoulder was hurting too much to go out again. Blackburn missed time this spring with knee soreness issues that he's been battling for the past couple seasons.
The Twins faced a litany of injuries to their starting staff in 2009 with Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Francisco Liriano all missing a fair number of starts. Losing Blackburn who has been a rotation stalwart would certainly hurt. While the Twins could move Brian Duensing into the rotation if Blackburn indeed did need a trip to the DL, it would further exaserbate the issues their bullpen is currently facing.
Just today the Twins officially placed Jose Mijares on the 15 day disabled list where he'll join Clay Condrey and Joe Nathan. Pat Neshek could be headed there soon as well if the cortisone shot he received can't stop the pain in his middle finger. The Twins played with just five relievers today, but rookie Alex Burnett should be up by today to add depth. Burnett was demoted just a couple days ago after a pair of strong outings.
According to Star Tribune reporter Kelsie Smith;
"The starter said he deals with this particular shoulder pain often, that it comes and goes and that team doctors told him it is not concerning."
I've certainly never heard of it, and I don't recall it ever knocking him out of a game in the past. So saying that he deals with it all the time strikes me as disingenuous at best. Clearly this is something beyond the norm and could account for why Blackburn, a ground ball pitcher throughout his career has already given up six home runs in just three outings.
It's not quite time to push the panic button in Minnesota yet, but if Blackburn misses any serious amount of time, it might be. They're certainly having their depth tested early.