The Angels tried Joe Blanton as a starting pitcher when the season began. Can’t blame them — 228 of his 237 career appearances before this season came as a starter. He was even slotted third in the rotation.
That experiment ended after 20 starts. Blanton went 2-13, which remains the most losses in the American League. He allowed 24 home runs in those starts and opponents hit a collective .317/.356/.543 against him.
A funny thing happened when Blanton was bumped from the rotation last month: He started pitching really well. In six relief innings since, the right-hander has retired 18 of the 19 batters he faced. Unlike some relievers, Blanton wasn’t fazed by going seven days between appearances, pitching three perfect innings Monday night against the Texas Rangers.
Considering Blanton didn’t pitch a 1-2-3 inning in 2013 until May 2 — his sixth start of the season — that was no small feat. Blanton looks like he’s found his niche.
Not so fast, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
“There’s always an opportunity for Joe to get back in our rotation,” Scioscia said. “I don’t think a good role in the ‘pen is going to limit him from doing that.”
There’s no room in the Angels’ rotation for Blanton. They have five major-league starters and another, Jason Vargas, on the disabled list. However, it might not go over well with the pitcher (or his agent) if Scioscia declares Blanton a reliever now, less than one year in to a two-year contract, even if Blanton never returns to the rotation again.
It’s worth pointing out that the manager didn’t say he plans to move Blanton back to the rotation, either. If all goes according to plan that probably won’t happen. Vargas will pitch a rehab game Thursday for Triple-A Salt Lake and could be back in the Angels’ rotation “in the next week to 10 days.”
“It’s just going to be where our rotation is and what our needs are,” Scioscia said.