Athletics righty Paul Blackburn looks to improve in second spring start

Oakland Athletics righty Paul Blackburn is set to face off against the Royals this afternoon
Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

The Oakland Athletics take on the Kansas City Royals this afternoon, with righty Paul Blackburn set to face off against Brady Singer. First pitch is set for 1:05 pm PST.

Blackburn had mixed results in his first start of the spring. He notched 3 strikeouts in 2 innings against the Giants back on February 28th, but also allowed a walk and gave up a homer to JD Davis.

He's coming off the best season of his career in 2023. He pitched just 103 innings but compiled a 4.43 ERA with a 3.96 FIP and struck out more than a batter per inning. He set a career high in innings back in 2022, reaching 111.1 innings in 21 starts.

It's not quite the volume Blackburn has hoped for. He went through a fingernail avulsion last year that held him to just 20 starts. As someone who has had a fingernail ripped off playing sports in the past, that injury is awful. That's especially true when it's on your throwing hand as an MLB pitcher. In 2022, he tore the flexor tendon in the middle finger on his throwing hand, limiting him further.

Blackburn will try to move past those injuries and put up a full season's worth of starts for the first time in his career. If he's able to stay on the mound he'll be a valuable piece of the Athletics rotation and a potential trade chip at the deadline.

Per Statcast data, his off-speed stuff is excellent. The slider, curveball, and changeup all ranked in the 83rd percentile or better in terms of run value, and he was effective in limiting hard contact and getting whiffs.

As currently constructed, Blackburn is set to pitch out of the 2 spot in Oakland's rotation to start the year and barring injury, he should stick there for a while. Athletics GM David Forst has specifically told reporters that they're not looking to trade Blackburn but we'll have to see how it plays out over the next six months.

Elsewhere, the Athletics are trotting out another lineup we could see in Oakland this summer. Esteury Ruiz finds himself in the leadoff spot and manning center field. The scorching hot Miguel Andujar gets the start in left, and Lawrence Butler gets the nod in right over the more consistent JJ Bleday.

Darell Hernaiz starts for the A's again at short stop, but we'll likely see Nick Allen in the lineup at some point as well.

The Royals send out Maikel Garcia, MJ Melendez, and the newly acquired Hunter Renfroe at the top of their lineup. Top first base prospect Vinny Pasquantino is set to bat cleanup.