How A’s Paul Blackburn prepared himself for MLB’s pitch timer


MESA, Ariz. — One way in which Oakland Athletics right-hander Paul Blackburn prepared to pitch under MLB’s new pitch timer this offseason involved nothing baseball-specific.

Blackburn ran more sprints. The goal? To practice recovering from explosive movements at a fast pace, he explained.

“Trying to get the body used to when the game’s speeding up on you … being able to collect your breath in a timely manner, not get penalized from the pitch clock and execute the pitch,” Blackburn said. “I feel like a lot of sprints help with that.”

The new timer allows 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on base. As Blackburn noted, one potential effect is that pitchers might tire faster with less time to recover between pitches. Starters have even more at stake, given their workloads.

Blackburn said he “took that into consideration this offseason, being able to hopefully get my endurance up.” He said he started by running 300-yard sprints, with two-minute rest intervals, and progressed to shorter, more frequent 15-yard sprints and cuts.

“Things where I’m working at a quick pace, and within that rest trying to figure out how to get my heart rate back down to close to where it was before,” Blackburn said.

After a torn tendon sheath in his middle finger cut his 2022 All-Star season short, Blackburn said his goal is to make 30 or more starts this season, which would be welcome for the A’s, given the relative inexperience of their rotation group. No pitcher on their 40-man roster, Blackburn included, has thrown 150 or more innings in an MLB season.

Blackburn made his second Cactus League start Friday and worked 3-1/3 innings against the Rangers. He allowed four hits and struck out four with no walks while throwing 45 pitches and deemed it “a step in the right direction” after recording only three outs in his first spring training start against the Reds.

Big swing: Kevin Smith hit a walk-off grand slam to cap a 12-11 win for the A’s, who entered the bottom of the eighth inning trailing Texas 8-1. Smith is vying for a reserve infield spot in camp.

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