Twins shift Blackburn to bullpen

Updated: July 21, 2010, 11:51 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins moved struggling right-hander Nick Blackburn into the bullpen, and left-hander Brian Duensing will take his place in the rotation.

Acting manager Scott Ullger made the announcement before Wednesday afternoon's game against the Cleveland Indians. Manager Ron Gardenhire was not at the ballpark, tending to a family matter.

Ullger insisted the move is temporary and made to give Blackburn a mental break. Duensing will start Friday at Baltimore.

Blackburn
Blackburn
Duensing
Duensing

"It's not a permanent thing. It's just to give Blackie a chance to take a step back, take a deep breath and regroup a little bit," Ullger said.

Asked about a time frame for the switch, Ullger was vague.

"Things have a way of working themselves out," he said.

The Twins won eight of Blackburn's first nine starts, and he was 5-0 with a 2.65 ERA in May. In the nine starts since, he's 1-6 with a 9.88 ERA and 11 home runs allowed. So the move did not come as a surprise, and Blackburn took full blame for it.

"Hopefully it's something I'm about through," Blackburn said. "I'm confident that I am."

Duensing has a 1.67 ERA in 43 innings, all in relief. He made nine starts last season, but most of his appearances this year have been brief, late-game assignments. He pitched four innings Sunday to stretch out his arm, a sign the Twins were preparing to move him.

Blackburn hasn't been the only problem in the rotation. Right-handers Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey have been struggling, too. The Twins have not yet confirmed a starter for Sunday's game, which would be Slowey's turn.

Duensing has a 1.67 ERA in 43 innings, all in relief. He made nine starts last season, but most of his appearances this year have been brief, late-game assignments. He pitched four innings Sunday to stretch out his arm, a sign the Twins were preparing to move him.

"I don't know how it's going to go," said Duensing, who will likely be held between 60 and 80 pitches. "I just want to help out."

Ullger, the team's third base coach, said he wasn't sure if Gardenhire would travel with the team for the four-game series against the Orioles starting Thursday night.

In other moves Wednesday, the Twins are returning infielder Alexi Casilla from his rehab assignment so he can rejoin the team.

Casilla will be reinstated from the disabled list before Thursday's game at Baltimore.

Right-handed pitcher Jeff Manship was optioned to Triple-A Rochester to make room on the roster. Manship was brought up as bullpen insurance last week.

Casilla was placed on the disabled list on June 1. He had surgery three days later to remove bone chips from his right elbow.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.