Joe Blanton likely needed to put together a truly dominant Spring Training in order to earn a role with the Angels. His first impression left a lot to be desired.
Making his 2014 debut, Blanton looked like the same pitcher that ended last season buried in the Angels bullpen. The first two hitters that Blanton faced today, Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson, each had a base hit before Yoenis Cespedes drilled a two run double to drive both runners in. Blanton did manage to retire seven of the next eight batters he faced, but the damage for the game had already been done.
Normally, one bad outing in Spring Training would not be a cause for concern. Pitchers are still working on their pitches and throwing strikes, so March statistics have to be taken with a grain of salt. However, after Joe Blanton finished the 2013 season by allowing 14 runs, 13 earned, in his final 8.2 innings, some semblance of improvement was needed. And by ‘improvement,’ the Angels likely did not mean seeing his ERA go from 13.50 over those final four appearances to the 7.71 for his outing today.
The hope had been that Blanton would pitch well enough that, if he could not be fit into the bullpen, he could be attractive as a trade chip. There are a number of teams that could use an experienced starter to shore up the back end of their rotation, and Blanton had generally been a league average pitcher before last season. However, if Blanton continues to be the official rally starter for the opposition, then the already minimal clamor for his services will cease entirely.
Yes, it is just one game. Yes, Joe Blanton could end up pitching a lot better and becoming a vital part of the Angels this season. However, it is also possible that the Cubs could win the World Series and Kristen Stewart could change facial expressions. All three are not likely to happen.