Blanton, Angels trying to figure out struggles
MINNEAPOLIS -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia, pitching coach Mike Butcher and the two catchers, Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger, huddled up with starter Joe Blanton before Tuesday's game in hopes of figuring out why the 32-year-old right-hander has struggled so much after such a lights-out spring.
The meeting was, as Scioscia put it, "routine."
Clearly, though, something needs to be figured out.
After posting a 2.37 ERA and not walking a single batter in 19 Cactus League innings, Blanton has started the regular season giving up at least four runs and throwing no more than five innings in each of his first three starts. Against a Twins team that came in 26th in the Majors in OPS on Monday night, he gave up four runs on nine hits (two of them homers) in 4 2/3 innings, putting his ERA at 8.59.
"He hasn't been able to command counts the way he can, he hasn't been in good zones as often as he needs to be, and when you're aggressive and you go after hitters and you're not really getting the pitches where you need them in a zone, guys are going to have pretty good swings at it," Scioscia said. "And we've seen that. He's also put together pretty good sequences, so it's in him to be a better pitcher. He'll get there."
In his latest outing, Blanton's fastball was mostly in the 87- to 88-mph range, a couple ticks down from his career norm. He said afterwards that he's "mechanically a little bit off," which has affected the fastball location and, to some extent, velocity.
Blanton got ahead on 19 of the 24 batters he faced, and only one of the hits he gave up came on what Pitch F/X identified as a four-seam fastball. But a better fastball, Blanton believes, will allow everything else to fall in line.
"That's kind of the key for a lot of pitchers, is fastball location and working off that," Blanton said. "Right now, fastball location, the quality is just not quite there. I'm just kind of feeling for it."