The Oakland A’s have a doubleheader Saturday, but they aren’t going to let that add stress to their pitching staff in the final days before the postseason begins. The team announced that they’re calling up Paul Blackburn to start the second game of the twin-bill.
This is the second time Blackburn has been called up this year, but he didn’t make it into a game in his first stint as an emergency depth arm. This time he’ll definitely play, marking his first appearance in the majors since last September.
The right-hander has appeared in each of the last three seasons for Oakland, but his results haven’t been consistent enough to stick long-term yet — and it hasn’t helped that there have been some injury troubles mixed in throughout. Last year he was only called on four times for 11 total innings and allowed 13 earned runs, including a spot start in which he went three frames and let through five runs.
Blackburn, career: 5.18 ERA, 97⅓ ip, 49 Ks, 26 BB, 10 HR, 4.42 FIP
His low strikeout rate is part of a pitch-to-contact style that aims for weak ground balls to efficiently record outs, with a career 53.3% grounder rate. When he gets into trouble, it’s either because the contact got too hard and/or elevated, or because he hurt himself by issuing free baserunners via walks.
It feels like the Brentwood product has been in the organization forever, having been acquired in late-2016, but he’s still only 26 years old. He’s only 10 months older than rookie catcher Sean Murphy, four months older than Matt Olson, three months older than pitching prospect James Kaprielian, less than two months older than catcher Austin Allen, and he’s younger than Frankie Montas.
The A’s have already clinched the AL West division crown, so these final games only matter in terms of seeding for the playoff bracket. If Blackburn pitches well, then it will be a welcome sight from one of their current backup starters. If he gets knocked around, it won’t really cost the team anything. He gets his latest chance to compete in the majors, and the A’s get a free look at him for the first time in a year while also saving the arms of other pitchers who are likelier to make the playoff roster next week.
Welcome back to the Show, Pauly B!