Hawks' Blackburn dominates in debut

Cubs prospect gives up one hit, fans eight over five innings

By Brandon Simes / Special to MLB.com | June 15, 2013 10:34 PM ET

As far as debuts go, Paul Blackburn's first start of the season could give "Harry Potter" a run for its money.

The Cubs' No. 16 prospect allowed one hit and struck out eight over five scoreless innings Saturday night before short-season Boise dropped a 1-0 decision at Eugene.

"It was exciting seeing 4,000 people out there. It definitely was a little nerve-racking. But I just went out there and threw my pitches and I took the crowd out of the game early, which helped me a lot," Blackburn said.

The 19-year-old right-hander gave up a two-out single in the first to Edwin Moreno, then retired the next 13 batters. He struck out Cade Kreuzer and exited with the game scoreless.

"Everything was working, all three of my pitches," Blackburn said. "I could throw whatever I wanted whenever. I was able to locate anywhere I wanted to."

Blackburn throws a two-seam fastball in the low 90s and complements it with a changeup and curveball that got him most of his strikeouts against the Emeralds. Unlike most pitchers, he throws his two-seamer harder than his four-seam fastball.

"I've always thrown a two-seamer, I feel like I throw it harder and have more control over it. I'm just more comfortable with it," the California high school product said.

Blackburn prepared for his debut by heading to extended spring training and focusing on adding muscle to his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame.

"[The Cubs] aren't trying to rush me, they were basically putting me somewhere I'll succeed and feel comfortable," he said, adding he'll pitch on regular rest as the Northwest League season unfolds.

The 56th overall selection in the 2012 Draft, Blackburn threw 20 2/3 innings last season in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he struck out 13 batters, walked seven and posted a 3.48 ERA.

"Working with catchers was a big thing and getting to know my weaknesses and my strengths, knowing what my out pitch is, that's basically what Arizona helped me with," he said.

Emeralds starter Yimmi Brasoban allowed two hits and struck out two in five innings as neither team issued a walk. There was a total of four singles before pinch-hitter Henry Charles led off the bottom of the ninth with a home run off Tyler Bremer (0-1).

Brandon Simes is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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