There's all kinds of news coming out of the Twins camp over the last two days. Nick Blackburn was lights out today, pitching three scoreless, hitless innings, and facing the minimum. After the game, Gardy confirmed what we had all probably already concluded. Nick Blackburn has locked up the 4th spot in the rotation. Apparently, the sinker is once again sinking. Blackburn is getting ground ball outs with that sinking action on his fastball and that's all Gardy needed to see. If Blackburn can now mix in that changeup and slider, he should be continue being effective, and be a very solid #4 starter in what should be a very solid rotation.
With Blackburn locking up his rotation spot, that leaves Baker, Slowey, and Kyle Gibson as the three remaining pitchers in camp competing for that final rotation spot. I'd be blown away if Gibson doesn't start in the Rochester, so that leaves Slowey and Baker. I predicted in an earlier post that the final spot would come down to Slowey and Blackburn. I was wrong. But with that, I see it very hard to believe that, barring injury or implosion from Scotty, he won't get that final rotation spot. He was our Opening Day starter a year ago and has the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation guy. He has been a fly ball pitcher throughout his career and that has led him to give up a lot of bombs, but I think he will be given every opportunity to make the rotation. Slowey should be a good fit for a long-relief role especially after struggling after the middle innings of his starts last year.
Gardenhire also announced that Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be our second baseman, and Alexi Casilla will start at short. This is what most of us thought would ultimately happen, but I didn't expect a decision this soon. I haven't had a chance to see Yoshi play yet so I don't know what kind of athlete, arm strength, or range he has, but we all know Casilla has the tools to play short. It's just gonna be a matter of him screwing his head on straight and giving us a little offense and speed in the lineup. If Casilla can fill the 9 hole and hit .270 with 20-25 steals, no one will complain. We put up with Nick Punto for like 8 years. Casilla's youth and energy should be an upgrade.
On a side note, I'd like to congratulate the North Carolina Tar Heels on beating the crap out of Duke and not coughing up a big lead again to win the ACC Regular Season Title. I'm thinking they'll end up with a #2 seed in The Dance and are definitely a threat to make a run at the Final Four.
Check out my blog at touch-em-all-sports.blogspot.com