Twins' Baker, Blackburn progressing nicely

Twins' Baker, Blackburn progressing nicely

BLAINE, Minn. -- The Twins will have six starting pitchers competing for five spots in the rotation during Spring Training. Two of those pitchers, Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn, are coming off cleanup surgeries on their elbows this offseason. But both right-handers said on Saturday at TwinsFest that everything has gone well with their recovery.

Baker and Blackburn both had bone chips removed from their elbows back in October. So far, they appear ready to go for the start of Spring Training.

"Usually, at the beginning of the throwing program in the offseason, it's kind of sensitive," Blackburn said. "But this year, with the rehab that I did for my elbow, I got my shoulder a little bit more prepared. The first couple times I threw, it felt amazing.

"I could already see a little bit of life to the ball when I was only throwing 60 feet, so it was exciting. It's been feeling pretty good so far."

Baker also reported positive strides following his surgery, which was performed by Mets physician David Altchek. It was the first baseball-related surgery for Baker, who had to endure two cortisone shots in his elbow last season to get him through the second half of the season.

"I've long-tossed, and so far I've thrown off the mound four times," Baker said. "I really haven't started spinning breaking balls, just fastballs and changeups. And I'm probably a week behind where I would normally be.

"I've been fortunate. [My elbow] feels good. I've got all this newfound range of motion. We'll see what I can do with it."

Blackburn is coming off a disappointing 2010 season in which he spent some time at Triple-A Rochester to get himself back in form. The hope for Blackburn is that with his elbow healthy and his mechanics back in line, he can return to the form he showed in 2008 and 2009 -- when he tallied a combined 22 wins, while posting a 4.04 ERA.

"Ultimately I want to be better than that," Blackburn said. "That's the goal. I don't see why I can't be, going in there with the opportunity to be fully healthy, which may not have been the case last year. I'd never stand here and say that the reason why I had a bad year last year was elbow issues, because that's not entirely true. I want to go out and have a great season. There should be no reason I don't do that, as long as I'm healthy."