Posted at 6:00 AM on May 1, 2008
by David Zingler
Nick Blackburn has been one of the most pleasant surprises of this young Twins season. The 26-year-old rookie floated below the radar most during spring training, but earned a place in the rotation and has arguably been the team's most consistent starter so far.
I caught up with Blackburn on Tuesday, less than 24 hours before he would pick up his second big league win.
DZ: Coming into the season, we didn't know much about you, but you've pitched pretty well and picked up your first win. Talk about how the season's gone for you so far.
BLACKBURN: So far it's been good other than a couple of rough innings, but that's gonna happen. I've been pleased with the way I've been throwing for the most part.
DZ: Early in the year you pitched well enough to win, but didn't get the runs...there's a lot of luck involved in (getting) wins...it took you a while, but some guys seem to rack them up pretty easily. How do you deal with that?
BLACKBURN: I am not too concerned with the win-loss column. Obviously, you want to go out there and win, but I just want to give the team a chance to win. That's what a starting pitcher does. To me the win-loss column is a little overrated for a pitcher because it depends on the whole team. The game I got the win, there were plays made (on defense) left and right.
DZ: Which stats do you look at?
BLACKBURN: I would say WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) and ERA are probably more important than win-loss (record). You can go out there and there can be a guy with 10 wins, but if he has a 5.50 ERA, his team is putting up a lot of runs for him. ERA probably tells you a lot more about how you are throwing that year.
DZ: You came into spring training and weren't guaranteed anything, but you fought hard and got a roster spot. When did you find out you made the team?
BLACKBURN: Basically just the day before we came (north). They weren't real sure what they were going to do with (Francisco) Liriano the whole time, so nobody actually came up to me and told me I'd made the team. Nobody told me to go anywhere else, so that's how I found out.
DZ: When you got on the plane, basically.
BLACKBURN: (Laughs) Yeah, I wasn't sure where I was going until I got on the plane.
DZ: How did that feel?
BLACKBURN: That was something I really wanted to do - a big goal for me - to make the team out of spring training. I was very happy with the way that turned out.
DZ: You've got the dark hair and sideburns and - especially with your hat on - you look like Joe Mauer out there. Do you ever get teased about that?
BLACKBURN: (Laughs) Constantly. I've got fans all of the time calling me "Mauer", trying to get autographs and that stuff. I am starting to get used to it and it's starting to slow down a little bit. It's getting to the point where it doesn't happen too much anymore.
DZ: Do you ever get his cards to sign?
BLACKBURN: A lot of people want me to sign stuff, but I don't go over there because they are usually calling Mauer's name.