Blanton, Worley experience revolving door
Former teammates disappointed they won't play together
CINCINNATI -- Zach Duke hasn't thrown a pitch for the Pirates in five years. However, their former left-hander may have just thrown a lifeline to the Bucs' pennant-stretch pitching staff.
Joe Blanton was an ex-Major League pitcher late last fall when his new neighbor in Nashville, Tenn., went looking for someone to throw to.
Blanton, who thought he'd taken his last windup when he was released in mid-April 2014 by the Athletics after two starts for their Triple-A club, told Duke, "I'll throw with you."
"And I started feeling pretty good," recalled Blanton, who had considered himself happily retired at 34. "I realized at one time I was pretty decent at this thing. And I was having fun throwing the ball around, so I thought, 'Maybe I'll give it another whirl.'"
The whirl landed him in Kansas City as a valuable cog in the Royals bullpen, and on Thursday it brought him to the Pirates, who acquired him for cash considerations.
It is a somewhat odd move that had an unpleasant element for the two men involved, Vance Worley and Blanton. The two right-handers were teammates with the Phillies from 2010-2012. Worley was designated for assignment by the Pirates to create roster room for Blanton.
"When I'd heard we'd picked [Blanton] up, I was excited. I was pumped to again be with him," Worley said.
"It's tough. I looked forward to playing with him as well," said Blanton, who literally entered the Pirates clubhouse through one door as Worley was leaving through another. "This game is great. But the business side sometimes stinks. And I was on the other side just a couple of days ago."
Indeed, Blanton became available when he was designated for assignment when the Royals acquired Johnny Cueto -- who otherwise would have been facing the Pirates in Thursday's opener of the four-game series with the Reds.
That's one odd quirk. Here's another: In 12 relief appearances since losing his spot in the rotation, Worley had fashioned an ERA of 2.08. In 11 relief appearances with the Royals, Blanton had an ERA of 2.74.
However, there were both physical and mental aspects that influenced the Pirates' preference. As a 27-year-old displaced starter, Worley was frustrated by his relief role. As a 34-year-old reborn veteran, Blanton will embrace it.
And manager Clint Hurdle's eyebrows were raised when Blanton dropped on him an experience in early June, when he appeared on three straight days -- and made 51 pitches in a 3 1/3-inning stint on the third day.
"It's impressive to have that in your pocket," Hurdle said. "He's got great resiliency. And he has more experience in this role, so it's a better overall fit for the bullpen. Vance poured everything he had into everything he has ever done as a Pirate -- but we were asking a man to pitch in a role in which he didn't have enough experience to be successful at."