Former M's minor-leaguers face off as A's visit Seattle (Jul 06, 2017)

BY AP • July 6, 2017

SEATTLE -- Call it a two-star General start.

When the Seattle Mariners' Sam Gaviglio and Oakland Athletics' Paul Blackburn take the mound Thursday in the opener of a four-game series at Safeco Field, it will be a matchup of two right-handers who pitched for the Double-A Jackson Generals in Tennessee last season.

They were never teammates, but they share a couple of common threads.

Blackburn, a former first-round draft pick, was acquired by the Mariners on July 20, 2016, along with first baseman Daniel Vogelbach, from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for left-hander Mike Montgomery and Triple-A pitcher Jordan Pries.

The Mariners assigned Blackburn to Jackson, where he went 3-1 with a 3.54 ERA in eight appearances, including seven starts.

With Pries gone from the Tacoma rotation, Gaviglio was promoted from Jackson to Triple-A.

"It was a pretty good trade for me," Gaviglio said. "A spot opened up in Tacoma."

Blackburn not only moved into Gaviglio's spot in the Double-A rotation, but also into the apartment he had started the 2016 season sharing with Pries and Andrew Kittredge.

In the offseason, Seattle sent Blackburn to the Athletics for first baseman Danny Valencia.

Gaviglio and Blackburn will meet for the first time Thursday.

Blackburn, 23, will be making his second major league start. In his debut last Saturday against the Atlanta Braves in Oakland, Blackburn allowed one unearned run on three hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out four.

"Seeing guys you've watched on TV and facing them is kind of a 'wow' moment," the Bay Area native said after taking the mound at the Coliseum in front of nearly 400 friends and family members. "It was awesome. I can't even put it into words. One of the best days of my life."

It also earned Blackburn another start.

"His composure was great," A's manager Bob Melvin said after the game. "From the start, you worry about nerves a little bit, and it didn't seem like there were any with him. He used all his pitches, and even when we did make (defensive) mistakes that cost us, he just kept pitching. To give us six innings like that was more than we could expect. He got better as the game went along."

Gaviglio (3-3, 3.48 ERA) will be making his 10th career start and will face the Athletics for the first time.

He was recalled from Tacoma on May 10, with starters Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly all on the disabled list.

While Hernandez and Paxton have returned, the Mariners announced in the past week that Smyly is scheduled for Tommy John surgery Thursday and will miss the remainder of the season and that Iwakuma had a setback in recovery from inflammation in his right shoulder and will be shut down for the next week or so.

Gaviglio, 27, has pitched at least five innings in each of his starts, lasting a career-high 6 1/3 innings in his last outing Saturday in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels. Gaviglio allowed just three runs on five hits but took a 4-0 defeat.

"We got to the point where we went so deep on our depth chart he was the best option at the time," Mariners manager Scott Servais recently said of Gaviglio. "He came up; he took the opportunity. ... We had no one else to start, fired him in there, and he seized it.

"He's 27 years old. He's pitched a lot of minor league baseball. He's been able to not get too in awe of things and let innings get away from him. He's just kept us in ballgames."

The Mariners (41-45) will be looking to snap a seven-game home losing streak. The A's (37-48) are in the American League West cellar but have won two in a row.



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