Sunday provided some good news and some concern in Twins Territory as the Twins announced the signing of starting pitcher Nick Blackburn to a four-year, $15.25M deal. The contract also contains a club option for a fifth season, keeping the pitcher under Twins' control through the 2014 season.
Blackburn has recorded 11-11 seasons in each of his two years in the Twins' rotation. In 2009, the righty made 33 starts, pitched 205.2 innings, allowed 240 hits, walked 41, and struck out 98. He pitched to the tune of a 4.03 ERA and an xFIP of 4.56.
In his two seasons, Blackburn has earned a reputation as a reliable innings-eater for a Twins' staff which puts a priority of getting the ball over the plate and making hitters earn their way on base. Blackburn doesn't walk many and doesn't miss many bats, but he battles and eats innings. On a staff where the bullpen is a strong suit, a starter like Blackburn who can keep the game close before handing it to the bullpen is very valuable.
Like last year when the Twins signed Scott Baker to an identical contract, the Twins identified a solid young pitcher and offered him a very affordable contract to keep him under team control for a few years. Blackburn just turned 28 last month and is a very solid pitcher on what should be a very solid starting staff in 2010. The Twins made great moves in locking in two of their most experienced youngsters to very affordable and responsible contracts.
On the negative side, closer Joe Nathan left Saturday's game with right elbow pain and headed back to the Twin Cities for an MRI and a CAT scan. No word on the results yet, but my feeling is that the team should shut Nathan down right now and let him rest. They are ok in the bullpen for a while, so there's no sense in blowing the guy out in the early season in the cold weather. Stay tuned.