Blackburn Turns It Around For Giants

SAN FRANCISCO—It was beginning to look like a lost year for righthander Clayton Blackburn.

He didn’t get much of an opportunity to impress Giants coaches in major league camp because of shoulder tendinitis. Then he stayed in Arizona when the minor league seasons began. When he reported to Triple-A Sacramento, he was 2-3, 4.50 in his first seven starts—including a nine-run blasting at Albuquerque that served as a rude introduction to the Pacific Coast League.

But then three things happened: Jake Peavy reported to Sacramento for a rehab assignment, then Matt Cain followed shortly thereafter, and Blackburn took a three-week break from the rotation. He was able to refresh his mind, and he had access to two of the organization’s smartest starting pitchers to help him.

Blackburn returned to the rotation June 29, he didn’t allow more than two earned runs in any of his remaining 13 starts, and his 2.85 ERA was the best in the league. Regardless of the circumstances, winning an ERA title in one of the minor leagues’ liveliest circuits is an accomplishment.

Drafted in the 16th round in 2011, Blackburn, 23, has a different goal as he prepares for another major league spring camp.

“We want him to show us how close he is to helping,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said. “I think we’re all very encouraged with what he accomplished last season, and he’ll get every chance to build on that.”

The Giants don’t figure to enter the season with a dire need in the rotation, after spending $220 million on Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto.

But Blackburn’s ability to rediscover the form and finish on his curveball, and his ability to keep an 89-90 mph fastball in the lower third of the strike zone, made him an effective contact-oriented pitcher that could translate to the bigger parks in the NL West.


• After one season managing at Double-A Richmond, Jose Alguacil moves up to skipper Triple-A Sacramento, replacing Bob Mariano. Former Giant Damon Minor was hired to serve as the River Cats’ hitting coach. Former major league catcher Miguel Ojeda was hired to replace Alguacil as manager at Richmond.

• Righthander Cody Hall was designated for assignment when the Giants signed outfielder Denard Span and added him to the 40-man roster. Hall was later traded to the Diamondbacks.

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