Youthful bullpen costs Silva

Youthful bullpen costs Silva

BOSTON -- Carlos Silva knows that the future for the Twins is in their young starting pitching.

Set to be a free agent at the end of this season, Silva made what could have been his final start for the Twins on Saturday night in their 6-4 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

All season long Silva has expressed his desire to remain with the Twins. But considering the amount of talented young arms the club has, he understands that the chances of that may not be very great.

"I would love to be here but my eyes are open," Silva said. "The Twins are in a very good position with me or without me to be honest. I know that the Twins have very good starting pitchers. I know they are young. I know they have a lot to learn. But they will learn."

The learning process for many of Minnesota's talented young arms has been ongoing this season. Despite the gluttony of prospective starters in the system, the Twins have been hesitant to rely on them due to their inexperience.

It's shown in recent starts that many of those arms are still in the midst of the learning curve. Matt Garza struggled to control his emotions in his last start. Boof Bonser hasn't always been able to make adjustments when needed and Kevin Slowey is still progressing in his development.

And on Saturday night, it was mistakes by rookie Nick Blackburn that played a big factor in Silva not picking up his 14th win of the season.

Silva left the game with the Twins leading, 4-2. The club tagged Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield for four runs (three earned) over his seven innings.

Rondell White and Joe Mauer each belted a solo home run off the knuckleballer in the contest. White led off the third inning with his fourth homer of the year, a solo shot over the left-field wall. Mauer delivered his homer the next inning, a one-out blast to right field for his seventh of the season.

The Twins would give Silva two more runs before his exit, as he held Boston to just two runs on seven hits over his six innings. The right-hander did not issue a walk and struck out three.

But Silva's chance to bring his record to .500 on the season was erased shortly after his exit. Blackburn struggled for the second straight outing to make pitches when it counted.

Following a two-inning outing on Wednesday at Detroit, where he gave up six runs (four earned) on seven hits, Blackburn repeated nearly the exact same mistakes, as he allowed four runs to the Red Sox in the seventh inning.

After one quick ground-ball out to start the seventh, Blackburn (0-2) gave up back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second. He then got Manny Ramirez to strike out swinging, but Blackburn's constant reliance on the fastball would catch up with him when he faced the next two batters.

Mike Lowell's single to center scored Coco Crisp from second and made it a one-run game. J.D. Drew then came to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs.

On a 3-2 count, Blackburn threw yet another fastball down the middle that Drew blasted into the right-field seats for a three-run homer. And what had looked like a victory for six innings quickly turned into a two-run loss.

"It's fastball, fastball, hard cutter and he never threw a changeup or a breaking ball until after he gave up the runs," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's the same thing we talked about before. Some youngness out on the mound ended up costing us a ballgame by not making the adjustment again.

"But that's kind of the time of year it is for us. See what these guys can do and make them learn a bit so they can be better down the road."

The Twins' concern about a young staff was one of the reasons the club picked up Silva's option for '07 despite a sub-par performance by the sinkerballer in 2006. He made the decision look like a smart one as Silva's 20 quality starts for Minnesota were the most for the club since 2004, when Brad Radke had 24. It was also Silva's 10th quality start in his last 12 outings, a span where he went 5-3 with a 3.19 ERA.

In addition to wanting to rebound from his rough 2006 season, Silva's goal entering the season was to give the club 200-plus innings and show he was a durable arm. He entered Saturday's contest just four short of the number, and his six innings were enough to top the mark.

"The only thing I can do, I throw innings in there," Silva said. "For me and for every starting pitcher, that's one of the most important things -- to reach 200."

There are more than a few teams around the league who are looking for pitchers who can eat up 200 innings. And in a relatively thin pitching market this offseason, Silva likely will be courted by a fair share of clubs.

"[Everyone] knows how much I love this team and how much I want to be here, but you know, it's exciting to be a free agent, too," Silva said. "I think right now I'm in a very good spot to see where I end up."

Silva may be excited about his future but he believes that great things are in store for his current club as well. Even if that means that he's not here to be a part of it.

"I know all the talent we have on this team," Silva said. "And I don't know if it will be next year, but in the future, I know the Twins will have very good five starting pitchers in here."

Now Silva just has to wait to see if he's one of those five.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.