Athletics manager Mark Kotsay provided reporters with some injury updates on a few players today, with Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle relaying the information. Right-hander Paul Blackburn and catcher Manny Piña have each been slowed down by injuries recently and it’s now unclear if either player will be available to the A’s when Opening Day rolls around.
In Blackburn’s case, he has a fingernail avulsion, or torn nail, on the middle finger of his right hand. He’s playing light catch at the moment but it seems that he can’t do much else and he won’t make his scheduled spring start tomorrow.
The 29-year-old Blackburn is going to be one of the more seasoned pitchers in the A’s rotation this year, at least in terms of major league experience. Shintaro Fujinami and Drew Rucinski are slated for two spots after lengthy showings in Japan and Korea, respectively. Blackburn and James Kaprielian each have just over 50 major league appearances and should also have spots, with another job available to one of the club’s pool of less-established pitchers like JP Sears, Ken Waldichuk, Adam Oller, Kyle Muller or Adrián Martínez.
Blackburn had a nice breakout campaign last year, pitching to a 4.28 ERA over 21 starts. That ERA might not jump out so much, but he had a much lower 2.90 figure through early July. His 18.8% strikeout rate in that time was subpar, but he paired that with a strong 6.2% walk rate and 48.7% ground ball rate. His results took a step back from that point as he dealt with pain in his pitching hand, eventually resulting in a diagnosis of a torn tendon sheath in his right middle finger.
Blackburn was looking to get back on track here in 2023 but it seems he will at least be delayed now due to that same finger. Blackburn tells Kawahara that the current issue is unrelated to last year’s injury. At this point, it’s still not clear if he’ll need to miss some of the start of the regular season, but if he does, it would potentially open up an opportunity for one of those aforementioned pitchers looking to earn a job with the club.
One other pitcher who could have been in that mix but is also facing his own setback is Freddy Tarnok. Kawahara relays that Tarnok is experiencing some right arm discomfort and is shut down from throwing while undergoing testing. At this point, it’s unclear what’s ailing Tarnok or how long he will be out of action, but he’ll be on the sidelines of the rotation competition for the time…
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