When the Athletics open the 2023 MLB season at home against the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday, March 30, at the Oakland Coliseum, they won't have their best starting pitcher on the active roster. A's manager Mark Kotsay announced Friday that Paul Blackburn will begin the year on the injured list because of a fingernail issue.
Per The San Francisco Chronicle's Matt Kawahara, Blackburn said the injury -- a torn nail on the middle finger of his right hand -- popped up during a March 5 outing against the Cincinnati Reds in Las Vegas. He pitched again on March 10, lasting 3 1/3 innings. But now it's uncertain when he will be able to pitch again.
Coming off a breakout 2022 season in which he was the A's only All-Star representative, Blackburn was expected to lead Oakland's pitching staff into a season of uncertainty.
Before the MLB All-Star break last season, Blackburn had a 3.62 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 97 innings over 18 starts. But a tear of the flexor tendon sheath on the same right middle finger cost the 29-year-old the final two months of the season. He finished the year with a 4.28 ERA in 21 starts.
With Blackburn out for the beginning of the season, Kotsay and the A's will turn to Shintaro Fujinami, JP Sears, Drew Rucinski and others to carry the load in early April.
Blackburn's latest injury setback comes at a time when he was pumped up for the upcoming season.
"The way my body feels and where my mind is, I'm just excited to get back," Blackburn said in mid-February (h/t MLB.com's Martín Gallegos). "I feel like it's been forever since I've been able to go out and compete against somebody."
But a month later, Blackburn's body has let him down again and he will have to ramp back up before he can make his season debut.