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Nick Blackburn in Crosshairs as Francisco Liriano Watches for a Spot

Timothy BogerCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2008

We've all been waiting for it. We knew there was no room for Liriano in the current Minnesota Twins' rotation—they were doing solid. So the Twins fans were stuck waiting for somebody to falter, somebody to string together enough losses to warrant a switch. A switch to the Franchise, Francisco Liriano, for Liriano II: The Return.

Well, Monday night may have shown us the candidate for demotion: Nick Blackburn.

Now, I know they all had a bad stretch in June. But then the rotation showed us something else—a level of performance that has me and many other fans excited for the potential dominance of the Twins rotation in the coming years. Slowey looks like Radke. Perkins and Baker are solid too.

And Blackburn had his good times too. For a good chunk of the season, he's had the lowest ERA on the team. He's been used, and lauded, as a great innings eater. Eight of his starts have lasted seven innings or longer, and only one of those took over 100 pitches.

But while he's had his share of impressive performances, it seems he's had more than the average share of mediocre, or in Monday night's case, just flat-out rotten ones, too. He has allowed four earned runs in five or more games this season. And you can flip that 100-pitch stat around too—only three times has he made it through 100 pitches.

It's too early to determine whether Blackburn is really the odd man out, and it will be several more starts (a la Boof) before any moves are made. But a 1.2 inning outing is no good. And with Liriano itching to get up here, and everybody in the Twins itching for him to be up here too, every little mistake is scrutinized and will be watched carefully.

Blackburn needs a good start next time around, or else there really will be pressure on him.

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