When he was not sidelined by injuries, Blackburn pitched on either side of the spectrum for the Twins. One month - like May 2011 where he went 3-0 with a 2.53 ERA in 42 innings pitched - he would be dazzling, using his sinker effectively and keeping opponents off-balanced. The next month Ė like July in which he went 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in 29 innings Ė heíd have fallen apart and was beaten senseless across the field. Naturally, injuries played a significant role in his bi-polar performances and helps explain his decline to some degree.
But Blackburn has come into camp healthier following his second-straight offseason with an elbow procedure and, according to the Pioneer Pressís Tom Powers, he has made a series of adjustments that they hope will improve his numbers against right-handed hitters:
"It's helping me get over the whole arm issue," he said. "Everything is really strong right now."
Moving to the center of the rubber makes it harder for right-handed batters to pick up the ball. He's able to "hide it" longer during his delivery. The new position also has resulted in a more over-the-top pitching angle, which is easier on the arm.
And the changes are completely necessary for Blackie. Over the past two seasons, right-handers have feasted on his offerings. In 2010, they hit a robust .318/.352/.485 in 345 plate appearances. Those totals increased this past season when they hit .316/.362/.507 in 318 plate appearances. This is starkly different from his results pre-2010 when he last threw his slider successfully. While hiding the ball longer may improve his marks, having a secondary pitch such as his slider would likely go further towards curbing righties.
Keep in mind that spring training is a time where promises are often made and the regular season is where they are not kept. Last year, Jose Mijares received glowing reviews about his new two-seamer. That did not exactly pan out for the big lefty. As the spring progresses, be sure to monitor how Blackburn fares against same-sided opponents.