MINNEAPOLIS -- With Josh Willingham serving as designated hitter, Ryan Doumit made his first career start in left field on Thursday against the Orioles.
Doumit has made 60 starts in right field in his career, including six starts this season, but never in left. He saw some time there during Spring Training and has been taking fly balls in left field the last few days.
"I already talked to Doumit about going out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's already been out there taking fly balls and watching balls. He was excited about it, to tell you the truth."
Gardenhire added that Doumit is making the start in left instead of right because of Ben Revere's success in right field this season.
"I know he feels a little more comfortable in right field, but I'm really happy with Ben Revere out there," Gardenhire said. "Ben's really good in right field, and [Denard] Span is in center. So this is the chance to give Willingham the break he needs. He's played a lot of baseball."
Gardenhire feeling better, back in dugout
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he was feeling better on Thursday after leaving Wednesday's game with flu-like symptoms.
Gardenhire left Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Orioles in the fifth inning, and bench coach Scott Ullger served as manager in his absence.
But Gardenhire said he felt good enough to return on Thursday, and was back as manager for the series finale.
"I'm good," Gardenhire said. "It was just a little stomach virus last night. So I shut it down."
Confident Blackburn ready to take on Royals
MINNEAPOLIS -- Even Nick Blackburn's wife knew something was wrong.
"[She] was telling me ... 'I could tell you were completely lost,'" Blackburn said. "You had no idea what you were doing pitching."
Now back with the Twins, Blackburn is preparing to start on Friday at Kansas City after his struggles prompted the team to send him to Triple-A Rochester for two weeks. The right-hander is confident after making some slight adjustments and allowing only one earned run over 15 innings in two starts with the Red Wings.
Rochester pitching coach Bobby Cuellar watched some tape of Blackburn from the 2009 season and helped him focus on calming his front side during his delivery. That change helped Blackburn throw from the correct arm slot, improving his command.
"Now when I'm missing with pitches, I'm missing in good locations as opposed to right over the middle of the plate," Blackburn said. "It just seems more natural for me than what I was doing earlier in the season."
Blackburn posted a 4-5 record with an 8.10 ERA in 13 starts with the Twins. His struggles are just one of the many reasons Minnesota's starting staff has buckled in disappointing fashion.
"We count on him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's supposed to be in there. It's what we signed him for. He's a big part of it. We need him, desperately.
"You have to get something solidified here with the rotation to move forward to give yourself a chance every night."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.