Injections put Blackburn on track

  • Updated: February 24, 2011 - 12:13 AM

Twins righthander Nick Blackburn

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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FORT MYERS, FLA. - Nick Blackburn doesn't have the same lubricant in his knee as Joe Mauer does, but the Twins righthander knows how well the injections can work.

He was injected with Synvisc in his right knee in 2004. He couldn't run because of his knee, and his weight had risen to over 260 pounds. The injection allowed him to run again, so he lost weight and became a top Twins pitching prospect. He had an injection in the other knee in 2008, then again in his right knee last season.

"Those shots can last anywhere from six months to six years or anywhere in between," Blackburn said. "They helped out for a long time with me, which means my body adapted well to them.

"Joe and I talked briefly, but his isn't really the same thing."

Mauer's left knee was injected with Supartz on Tuesday, which will be the first of at least three injections administered on a weekly basis. The Twins and their All-Star catcher insist the shots increase the chances he will play the entire 2011 season.

"It's pretty common," Mauer said. "A lot of athletes have them. I guess being a catcher and all that stuff, it might sound a lot worse than what it is."

Mauer was not thrilled that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire revealed the shot to reporters on Tuesday. Mauer said there have been no setbacks in his recovery from offseason surgery to clean out the knee -- although he is not catching bullpen sessions and no one knows when he will play in a spring training game.

"It's not that I need it," he said. "It's more of a preventative thing just to make sure I'm good to go for the season. So like I said, it's really not that big of a deal and I kind of wish it wasn't out there, but here we are."

Pavano gets call for Opening Day

Gardenhire confirmed Wednesday that Carl Pavano will be the Twins' Opening Day starter on April 1 when the Twins travel to Toronto. Scott Baker was the Opening Day starter last season against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif., with Pavano starting the Target Field opener.

It will be Pavano's second career Opening Day start. He also pitched Opening Day in 2007 for the Yankees, at the time his first big-league appearance in nearly two years.

THREE FACTS ABOUT ... CHASE LAMBIN

Age: 31

Position: Infielder

1 A nonroster invitee, Lambin's best chance at playing time is with Class AAA Rochester. "I play all over," he said.

2 A switch hitter, Lambin led Class AAA Syracuse (a Nationals affiliate) with 58 RBI last season.

3 He spent 2009 with the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League -- and was a teammate of new Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Lambin said Nishioka likes to keep things loose and fun in the clubhouse.

LA VELLE E. NEAL III AND JIM SOUHAN

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