Taking edge off focus, Blackburn thrives
Time away from Twins beneficial to right-hander on hill
MINNEAPOLIS -- Time away from baseball is not something that Nick Blackburn necessarily wanted. But with a family issue taking place back home, the Twins right-hander left his club for a long weekend at the end of last month.It turned out to perhaps be the break that Blackburn needed. At the start of this season, Blackburn was fighting himself on the mound and trying to do too much with his pitches. In four April starts, Blackburn posted a 6.85 ERA and allowed five earned runs in three straight outings. But since returning from his brief stint on the Family Medical Emergency List, Blackburn has gotten on a roll. He's 4-0 in his past four starts (all in May) and has pitched at least seven innings while not allowing more than three runs in each of those outings. "It may have cleared my mind and helped me to relax," Blackburn said of his time away. "Maybe it took a little focus away from my pitching, and that's what I needed to do. I was thinking too much and trying too much, so it might have been exactly what I needed." As he gets ready to pitch against the Yankees in the series finale on Thursday, Blackburn said that he's finally gotten back to feeling like himself once again. He has worked with pitching coach Rick Anderson in bullpen sessions to throw easier and not try to force movement on his pitches. The right-hander said he believes he got into the bad habit of trying to give movement to his pitches back in Spring Training when his slider wasn't quite working. But without trying to force movement on his pitches, Blackburn has found himself feeling more like he did in previous seasons. His opponents' batting average has gone down this month (.267 in May compared to .347 in April) and his strikeout-to-walk ratio has nearly doubled from last month (from 0.88 to 1.60). The biggest thing for Blackburn, though, has been the way his mechanics feel right now. "I've been able to relax and let my pitches work," Blackburn said. "I still have times in each game when I try to do too much. But I think at this point, I realize what it feels like when I'm trying too hard. I know the adjustments I have to make. I think that's helped me to throw the way I have recently."
Condrey in search of second opinion
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right-hander Clay Condrey will get a second opinion on his right elbow pain before deciding whether to keep throwing or shut himself down for two months.Condrey, 34, has not pitched in a game this season for the Twins. The right-hander began experiencing discomfort in his throwing arm at the end of Spring Training and has spent the entire season on the 15-day disabled list in an attempt to rehab his strained right elbow. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Condrey will now go to New York to be examined by Dr. David Altchek, a team physician for the Mets who also performed Joe Nathan's Tommy John surgery this past March. Gardenhire said that an MRI of Condrey's right elbow taken on Monday showed there is still "inflammation in the area of the tendon, but that his ulnar collateral ligament looked fine, normal."
Reading from the medical report, Gardenhire said that Condrey was presented with the following options -- to keep throwing as long as the symptoms don't get worse, with a slight risk of further injury; to undergo an injection in the elbow; or shut down the arm entirely for two months."He has a big decision, so he's going to get another opinion, which is a good thing," Gardenhire said. "He should. If he goes down there and starts throwing and something were to happen, it'd be a hard road back. So a second opinion is not a bad thing -- just go get it done, check all your avenues and go from there."
Gardenhire speaks at motivation seminar
MINNEAPOLIS -- Before coming to the ballpark on Wednesday afternoon for a pair of contests against the Yankees, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire spent his morning speaking to a large crowd of businesspeople at a motivational seminar at Target Center.Gardenhire was just one of a number of notable guest speakers at an event entitled "Get Motivated!" -- a Tampa, Fla.-based traveling forum whose mission is to promote skills such as leadership, teamwork and competitiveness. Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Steve Forbes were also scheduled to speak at the venue on Wednesday, while Brett Favre and Sarah Palin were expected to join the seminar via satellite. "Not counting arguing with umpires in front of 40,000, that one right there was probably the biggest crowd I've talked in front of," Gardenhire said. "It was like a boxing match. You walk in, and the whole place is packed. There are chairs on the floors, and the only thing that was missing was the ropes. There were fireworks that went up when I walked up. It was something that I've never done before, so it was really cool. "It was all geared toward motivation. -- your baseball career and how you handle things and get people motivated at the ballpark. There were pretty good questions. It was good stuff to talk about." Gardenhire had enough time to stay at the event for only his speaking engagement, but he was certainly honored to be included among a group filled with other notable names. "I would have liked to sit there and listen to the rest of them talk," Gardenhire said. "I thought it would be pretty cool."
Gardenhire recalls last suspended game
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins did not have to deal with rain delays or rainouts during their 28-year tenure at the Metrodome, but Wednesday wasn't the first time that manager Ron Gardenhire has dealt with finishing up a suspended game at home.Due to sharing the Metrodome with the University of Minnesota football team and the National Football League's Vikings, the Twins had some time constraints placed upon some of their contests. That was the case back on Oct. 2, 2004, when a game against the Indians was suspended after 11 innings with the game tied at 5 because the playing surface had to be prepared for a Gophers football game. "I don't think we've done this too many times," Gardenhire said of suspended games. "Before, it had to have been in the Metrodome for time constraints, but it's part of outdoor baseball. It was definitely weird getting up today knowing you had one game today at 4 [o'clock] and again at 6."
Twins third baseman Nick Punto's sore knuckle on his left ring finger was feeling much better on Wednesday, according to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. The skipper said that Punto may have been available to pinch-run but not to hit against the Yankees on Wednesday. The hope on Wednesday was that Punto could be ready to return to the field for Thursday's series finale. ... Gardenhire also reiterated that there is no timetable for right-hander Pat Neshek's return. Neshek was scheduled to throw to hitters for the first time in Fort Myers, Fla., on Tuesday. "It's up in the air, because we've had so much indecisiveness on how he feels," Gardenhire said. "He has good days and bad days. The key is when we can get it to where he feels good all the time." ... Joe Mauer was the Twins' designated hitter in the second contest on Wednesday, as Gardenhire didn't want his All-Star catcher behind the plate for 13 innings. Drew Butera got the start behind the plate, while DHs Jim Thome and Jason Kubel sat for the second contest. ... Justin Morneau grounded into a double play in the first inning of the regularly scheduled game on Wednesday, marking the first time all season he had done that.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.