MESA, Ariz. -- There's surely a case to be made for every starter in competition for the three open rotation spots in A's camp, and right-hander Paul Blackburn certainly has a compelling one.But so does Jharel Cotton. Only Sean Manaea logged more innings than he did in 2017. Then there's
MESA, Ariz. -- There's surely a case to be made for every starter in competition for the three open rotation spots in A's camp, and right-hander Paul Blackburn certainly has a compelling one.
But so does Jharel Cotton. Only Sean Manaea logged more innings than he did in 2017. Then there's Daniel Mengden, who performed better than anyone else on the mound in September. Andrew Triggs and Daniel Gossett can't be forgotten either. So it goes.
"Typically we're not that big on Spring Training performances because they can fool you some," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I even had great springs. I hit .300. Then there are other times when that's all you have to go on."
That puts Blackburn, acquired from Seattle in the Danny Valencia trade, back at the starting line with everyone else in play, a position that matches his attitude.
"I'm going in there like I don't have a spot," Blackburn said. "Last year was last year."
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Last year, Blackburn put together an impeccable 10-start stretch as a rookie, beginning with six three-hit innings against the Braves. He ate up innings with ease, completing at least six of them in six of his first seven starts.
Then a fluke injury hit the rookie -- quite literally -- and his breakout season in the making was put to rest prematurely. Blackburn was nailed on the back of his pitching hand by a line drive in Baltimore on Aug. 22, and a resulting deep bone bruise kept him out of action the rest of the way, his ERA sitting at 3.22.
"That's all we have to go on now," Melvin said. "We're not the most experienced staff in the world, and he did well when he was here. The next thing for him to do is to continue to do that, and that's what the big leagues are all about, making adjustments. But we're excited about what we saw."
"It did a lot, not only for my confidence but just seeing how people approach things, just seeing what hitters do in certain counts here," Blackburn said. "That's the guy I feel like I have to be, the guy that finds little things that people do where you can get that advantage."
Blackburn typically relies on the command and execution of his two-seam fastball, but he's also working to refine his changeup, a pitch he utilized less than 10 percent of the time last year.
"We had some plans for him, but as far as depth goes, he was probably down the depth chart some," Melvin said. "We didn't see much of him last spring, but when he got an opportunity, he ran with it. He quickly put himself on the map with us and put himself in the position he's in right now."
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.