MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins moved struggling right-hander Nick Blackburn to the bullpen, and left-hander Brian Duensing will take his place in the rotation.
Acting manager Scott Ullger made the announcement before Wednesday’s game. Manager Ron Gardenhire was not at the ballpark, tending to a family matter.
Ullger described the move as temporary, to give Blackburn a mental break. Duensing, a former Husker and Millard South standout, will start Friday at Baltimore.
“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.
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.
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.
Zambrano pitching for Iowa Thursday
DES MOINES — Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano will pitch out of the bullpen for Class AAA Iowa Thursday.
Zambrano arrived in Des Moines Tuesday and was supposed to be available to pitch Wednesday night. Iowa manager Ryne Sandberg said Zambrano worked out Wednesday morning, but an Iowa Cubs spokeswoman said Zambrano won’t be in uniform until Thursday.
Zambrano was suspended without pay for three days and later put on the restricted list following a dugout outburst June 25.
Zambrano, who is 3-6 with a 5.66 ERA in 22 major league games this season, could return to the Chicago Cubs for a six-game road trip that starts Monday.
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