Minnesota Twins: Is It Finally Time to Part Ways with Nick Blackburn?

Tim ArcandCorrespondent IMay 16, 2012

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 30:  Nick Blackburn #53 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the sixth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 30, 2012 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

For the Minnesota Twins to turn around their nightmare season of 2012, they will need someone to step up and take charge, both in the clubhouse and on the field. Someone who says "enough already" and puts this team on his back and carries them until a few others catch on, and get the team moving in a positive direction.

When a starting pitcher steps up and leads by example, he's usually called the team's stopper. When his team is in a funk and it's his turn on the mound, he puts a stop to the losing streak. Then the next starter in the rotation wants to follow suit and keep the string going.

The Twins have been lacking a stopper all season.

So far this season, the longest winning streak the Twins have had has been two games. Not too hard to imagine when the record is 11-26.

The real problem has been that the Twins have had a six-game, a five-game and three three-game losing streaks so far this season.

Currently on a pace to lose 114 games, the Twins desperately need to find a stopper.

As of right now, that could be Scott Diamond. Since being called up, Diamond has pitched 14 shutout innings in two starts. Having won both starts, he is tied for the team lead in wins. While only two starts is not a large enough sample size to crown him the savior of the rotation, there is at least hope.

Scott Diamond has been sensational in his first two starts of the season for the Twins.
Scott Diamond has been sensational in his first two starts of the season for the Twins.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The only next promising option might be P.J. Walters, who, after beating the Tigers in his second start for the Twins, has the next lowest ERA at 3.65.  No other starter has an ERA below 5.00, with Carl Pavano next at 5.14 with a 2-3 record in a team-leading eight starts.

What we do know is that the demotion of Francisco Liriano to the bullpen takes him out of the running as the team's stopper.

That leaves Jason Marquis, with a 2-3 record and a 6.68 ERA, and Nick Blackburn.

Perhaps it's time to bid farewell to Blackburn.

In his latest start on Wednesday against the Tigers, he lasted only two innings, giving up six earned runs on six hits. About the only positive was that he did not yield a home run to the Detroit lineup.

He is currently 1-4 with an 8.37 ERA.

In his sixth season with the Twins, the best Blackburn has ever finished is 11-11 with an ERA of 4.03, something he achieved in back-to-back years in 2008 and 2009, the latter being the same magical year Joe Mauer hit 28 home runs and drove in 98 RBI.

P.J. Walters will have a chance to prove he can be an effective starter when he makes his second start against the Tigers.
P.J. Walters will have a chance to prove he can be an effective starter when he makes his second start against the Tigers.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Since 2009, Blackburn has an 18-26 record with a 5.30 ERA, and the way this season is going, there's no reason to believe he's figured out how to pitch and will become even a serviceable fifth starter in the rotation.

It's a bit mind-boggling to see Blackburn still in the starting rotation after pitching so mediocre his whole career.

Before landing in manager Ron Gardenhire's doghouse, another former starter, Kevin Slowey, actually had fantastic numbers compared to Blackburn.

From 2007 to 2010, Slowey had a 39-21 record in 82 starts, with a 4.41 ERA.

Then he failed to make the starting rotation in 2011, and fell to 0-8 with an 6.67 ERA. It was enough to send him packing, and the Twins traded him to the Rockies for a minor-league player. 

How bad does Blackburn have to pitch before the Twins get rid of him? Perhaps the thought process is that they can't get anything in return, so keep throwing him out there.

At this point, it would be better to bring back Liam Hendriks and let him struggle. The upside is a whole lot bigger—and who knows, he might even be able to pitch through the third inning.