One of the most memorable scenes from the 2008 World Series was pitcher Joe Blanton crushing Tampa Bay Rays hurler Edwin Jackson's fast ball into the left field stands. Blanton will probably never have to buy another meal in Philadelphia after that dinger not to mention the stellar performance on the hill that night.
The following season, Blanton went 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA and struck out a career high 163 batters in 195.1 innings. He started Game 4 vs the Yankees and allowed four runs in six innings while striking out seven. He didn't factor into the decision as former closer Brad Lidge took the "L" in the ninth. But the Phillies were impressed enough to sign him to a 3-year $24 million contract after the '09 season and things became a little rocky after that.
In 2010, Blanton started the season on the DL with a strained oblique but he was a fixture in the rotation after that. He started 28 games and finished 9-6 with a 4.82 ERA.
2011 was a waste. Elbow issues forced Blanton to the sidelines for basically the entire season. The big right-hander started eight games and tossed just 41.1 innings. Blanton said he didn't ever feel completely healthy until the playoffs started. Manager Charlie Manuel called his name only once in the five games and he answered with a 1-2-3 inning.
All this brings us to 2012. Blanton has been the topic of numerous trade rumors that have heated up since the beginning of Spring Training. The Toronto Blue Jays are seeking a starting pitcher and Blanton and former top Phillies prospect and current White Sox righty Gavin Floyd appear to head their list. Now, there are whispers that the Boston Red Sox might have some interest which leads to the question of: Should the Phillies trade Joe Blanton?
The answer here? A definitive no. Why you ask?
First, it appears Blanton is healthy and if so, he is a more known commodity than current No. 4 starter Vance Worley. No doubt about it, Worley had a very nice rookie season but does he have Charlie's trust to pitch in a big game? He didn't in 2011. Worley could have possibly iced the Cardinals series with a solid game four start. However, Manuel went with Roy Oswalt, the seasoned veteran and former ace. We all know how that worked out. Blanton started six postseason games as a Phillie and hasn't lost any of them as he carries a 2-0 record with a 4.23 ERA.
Next, if Blanton is dealt, the number five spot in the rotation is handed to Kyle Kendrick. Speaking about confidence in a guy, Kendrick has been with the Phillies for every one of the last five division winning seasons. However, he hasn't even appeared in a postseason game since Game 2 of the NLDS vs the Colorado Rockies in 2007. It's obvious Charlie and pitching coach Rich Dubee don't have much faith in a non-strikeout pitcher come playoff time. Yes, Kendrick's ERA was the best of career in 2011 at 3.22 but that was primarily in relief as the long-swing man. That's where he should be in 2012.
Other candidates for the No. 5 spot in the rotation include Joel Piniero and Scott Elarton. I don't think either of those guys do anything to excite anybody which leads us back to Joe.
The bottom line is the Phillies don't have as much pitching depth as it may appear. If Worley crashes back down to earth as some scouts expect then what? All of the sudden the "Big Three" might become the "Only Three." Blanton isn't going to go out and become a Cy Young candidate but what he does bring is a veteran presence with strikeout stuff, and big game experience.
So, to Ruben Amaro Jr. Hang onto Mr. Blanton before he comes back to Philly someday and crushes a Kyle Kendrick hanging fastball to left.
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