Blackburn Nick'd, but no cause for worry
Day after, right-hander not letting line-drive incident get to him
MINNEAPOLIS -- Nick Blackburn's swollen top lip bore a large black-and-blue mark, and the imprint of a baseball seam could still be seen slightly, but the pitcher considered himself very lucky.One day after being struck in the face by a Bobby Abreu line drive, Blackburn seemed to be in positive spirits. Despite having some slight headaches and lingering swelling, he was thankful that those were the only lasting effects of the liner that knocked him out of the game in the fifth inning of the Twins' 5-1 win over the Yankees on Sunday. "It feels way better than I thought it possibly could," Blackburn said. Blackburn was limited in his activity on Monday. The Twins' training staff wanted the swelling in his face to subside some, although it was already drastically reduced from the previous day when he iced it "every 20 minutes until like 1 a.m." The right-hander is still scheduled to throw his between-starts bullpen session on Tuesday, and Blackburn said he expects to make his next outing on Friday in Chicago. Still, it's not the lingering physical effects of the injury that seem the biggest concern. Following Blackburn's scare on Sunday, Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina talked about how it took him nearly a year to stop flinching on the mound after he was struck above his right eye by a Sandy Alomar Jr. comebacker. That incident, which occurred in 1998, left Mussina with a fractured nose and a gash that required 30 stitches and left a still-visible scar. "Hopefully, it doesn't affect me," Blackburn said of his incident. "We'll see. I can't say right now. I don't imagine that it will. I'm not scared to get back out there on the mound. I know it happens, and it probably won't happen again." The replay of him getting struck by the ball was all over sports highlight and news shows, and Blackburn said he watched the footage about "four or five times" without having a difficult time. "If there was more damage done, it probably wouldn't have been as easy to watch," Blackburn said. "But just knowing that I came out of it with a swollen lip and a bloody nose, it's not that big a deal. You can do that falling off a bike."
|"Hopefully, it doesn't affect me. We'll see. I can't say right now. I don't imagine that it will. I'm not scared to get back out there on the mound. I know it happens, and it probably won't happen again."|
|-- Nick Blackburn, on Sunday's incident|
Falling off a bike? Is that something that's happened often to the pitcher?"Yeah, a couple times," he said, with a straight face. "Not recently though." The bad luck of getting struck by the line drive was a continuation of unlucky events for Blackburn. While the Twins did beat the Yankees, his early exit prevented yet another personal "W." In his previous start vs. Kansas City, the right-hander entered the ninth inning with a 3-0 lead, only to watch a fluke inside-the-park home run erase that win as well. That string of unfortunate incidents has kept the rookie pitcher from amassing what could be seven or eight wins already this season. But Blackburn, who is 4-3 with a 3.32 ERA this season, doesn't seem to be complaining. "There is so much stuff that can play into a starter's win-loss record," Blackburn said. "To me, that's an overrated stat. ... I'm not going to be frustrated as to what my record is. If we're still winning when I'm out of the game, that's what is important." So while he's had a string of recent wins wiped away, Blackburn didn't have a hard time ranking being struck by a line drive as one of the worst feelings. "Some different situations have come up, but that's definitely my least favorite," Blackburn said.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.