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Blackburn progresses, eyes throwing off mound

Special to MLB.com

OAKLAND -- Athletics right-hander Paul Blackburn threw off flat ground again on Friday and could get on a mound during the team's six-game homestand, which began Friday vs. the Orioles.

Blackburn has been on the disabled list since late March with a strained right forearm. He recently began throwing from 90 feet and continues to make progress, a promising sign for a pitcher who was a contender for one of the final two spots Oakland's rotation coming out of Spring Training.

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OAKLAND -- Athletics right-hander Paul Blackburn threw off flat ground again on Friday and could get on a mound during the team's six-game homestand, which began Friday vs. the Orioles.

Blackburn has been on the disabled list since late March with a strained right forearm. He recently began throwing from 90 feet and continues to make progress, a promising sign for a pitcher who was a contender for one of the final two spots Oakland's rotation coming out of Spring Training.

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The next step for the 24-year-old pitcher, who grew up about 30 minutes from the Coliseum, will be throwing off a mound in a bullpen session.

Blackburn went 3-1 with a 3.22 ERA in 10 starts for the A's last season. He had an uneven Spring Training with a 6.75 ERA, but compiled 17 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings before starting to experience pain in his right forearm.

He was placed on the 10-day disabled list on March 28 (retroactive to March 26) and was transferred to the 60-day disabled list a week later.

Blackburn is eligible to come off the DL on May 25 and his return would be a boost for Oakland's pitching staff. He was injured shortly after the A's lost right-hander Jharel Cotton to Tommy John surgery. Kendall Graveman, the team's Opening Day starter, has struggled this season and was sent down to Triple-A Nashville on April 26.

Manager Bob Melvin is uncertain if Blackburn will be back when eligible, but sounded cautiously optimistic.

"Until we get him on a mound, we're not sure," Melvin said. "Obviously putting him on the 60, we felt like it was significant enough to where he obviously wouldn't be back sooner than that. But it would be nice if he's back around that time."

Injury updates

• Left-hander Ryan Buchter (strained left shoulder) continues to do strength work and exercises, but has not resumed throwing.

• Right-handed reliever Liam Hendriks (groin strain) has not yet graduated to throwing off a mound.

• Outfielder Boog Powell continues to be bothered with soreness in his right knee and is restricted from baseball activities.

Michael Wagaman is a contributor to MLB.com based in the Bay Area.

Oakland Athletics, Paul Blackburn