Blanton's future with Angels uncertain
PHOENIX -- Joe Blanton gave up four runs on six hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings against the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park on Saturday, and there's a chance -- perhaps a strong one -- that it was his last official start in an Angels uniform.
"Whatever happens, happens," said Blanton, who is owed $8.5 million and without a perceivable role on the team. "All I can do is just go pitch and try to make the adjustments in-game and keep working hard."
Saturday marked Blanton's first start with the Angels' "A" team this spring, after his previous three outings came on the road half of split-squad games that were conveniently scheduled in five-day intervals. When Opening Day comes in nine days, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Hector Santiago, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs are expected to make up the rotation, and at some point before then, the Angels have to figure out what to do with Blanton.
If they can't find a trade partner, they'll either release him or temporarily stash him in a bullpen that has some open spots now that up to three relievers -- Sean Burnett, Dane De La Rosa and Brian Moran -- could start the season on the disabled list.
Asked about possibly breaking camp as a long reliever, Blanton, a starter for almost his entire 10-year career, said: "Cross that road when we get there. We'll see. I'm not thinking about anything else right now but my next start, getting my bullpen right again, making sure what I was doing right there at the end sticks."
Three starts ago, in desperate need of some positive momentum, Blanton moved to the third-base side of the rubber for the first time in his career. He was great his first time out, pitching five one-hit innings against the Rangers; so-so his second time, giving up three runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Cubs; and erratic until the very end against the Brewers his third time.
Blanton gave up a solo homer to Carlos Gomez on the second pitch of the game. He loaded the bases later in the first, plunked Ryan Braun in the back with a fastball and brushed Mark Reynolds back with another before getting out of the jam. In the second, he gave up a two-out RBI single to Rickie Weeks. And in the third, he put the first two batters on and surrendered a two-run triple off the center-field wall to Elian Herrera.
He took some solace in finally slowing down his delivery, repeating pitches and retiring his last four batters, then threw some pitches in the bullpen to make sure he could keep doing it.
"He finished strong," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "but he had a lot of trouble commanding counts in the early innings."
Blanton -- coming off a 2-14 record and a 6.04 ERA in 2013 -- is pitching from a completely different side of the rubber, at a lighter weight than ever, without a definitive role for the first time he can remember, and with a 7.08 Cactus League ERA that isn't making things any easier.
It's a bizarre spring for the 33-year-old right-hander.
"I mean I'd be lying if I said no, so, yeah," Blanton said. "But at the same time, it's something you really try not to think about. I really tried to approach it somewhat the same as every other spring. Like I said earlier, I always go out competitive every spring and try to compete every outing the best I can. So that really doesn't change. I've done what I do for so long; I have my routine set. So really, nothing has changed. I'm just trying to block that out and go about my business every day."