Nick Blackburn stunk on Monday.
At least that's what the boxscore suggests.
One glance at it, and you'll see that the Twins righthander, in six-plus innings, was charged with five earned runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts in a 5-1 loss to the Angels in Minnesota's home opener.
So, all his talk this spring about making adjustments was one big sham.
Not so fast.
"I feel bad for Blackie," catcher Ryan Doumit said. "He deserved a better fate than that."
Blackburn gave up runs early and late in his outing -- but, actually, he wasn't that bad.
"Blackie gave us a hell of an effort,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Blackburn pounded the strike zone early in the count. Twelve of the 18 outs he registered came on ground balls. He dominated through the middle innings. Until the final pitch of his outing, Blackburn put together a strong 2012 debut.
He nonetheless went home a loser.
The Twins left the game wondering about their offense, not wondering about Blackburn, who regrouped after giving up an RBI single to Torii Hunter and another run on Bobby Abreu's ground-rule double in the first inning. He kept a dangerous Angels lineup quiet for large chunks of the game, retiring 15 consecutive batters and 16 of 17 at one point.
"We got into a little bit of a groove there where we were on the same page,'' Doumit said. "And that is what makes catching fun. I could have taken a Lay-Z-Boy back there and sat down there, he made it so easy for me."
That included holding Angels slugger Albert Pujols to a fielder's choice and two groundouts to third. Blackburn had no problem pitching Pujols hard inside, which set up the rest of his arsenal.
"Obviously, it was cold out there,'' said Blackburn, alluding to an advantage pitchers sometimes have in April games. "[Doumit] said hitters aren't comfortable when pitchers are willing to come inside as much as I was today, and I think it showed.
"[Pujols] didn't put a whole lot of great swings on a lot of pitches, and it allowed me to hang a slider here and there, with all those guys. It could have been a whole lot uglier if I wasn't able to establish the inside part of the strike zone."
Blackburn said he didn't have a good breaking ball or changeup early in the game but he adjusted as the game progressed.
However, things began to fall apart for him in the seventh, when Abreu drew a leadoff walk. Alberto Callaspo sent a grounder to short that scooted under the diving Jamey Carroll. Carroll said he should have caught the ball and started a double play.
Instead, Blackburn faced Chris Iannetta and gave up only his fourth batted ball that wasn't hit on the ground, a double to the left-center gap that scored two runs to make it 4-1. With the way the Twins offense is going, it was enough to put them away. Blackburn was pulled in favor of Jared Burton. Iannetta later scored on a squeeze play.
Blackburn reported to spring training full of confidence. He was healthy after offseason surgery to decompress a nerve in his forearm. He had moved to the middle of the pitching rubber, producing a different angle on his pitches. He posted a 2.12 ERA in spring training.
Despite losing Monday, Blackburn left with confidence that he can compete against good teams.
"The way it turned out," he said, "doesn't really show what I did."