January 23 Philadelphia Inquirer:
“A nickname that will stick remains unsettled for the first four well-decorated members of the Phillies’ 2011 starting rotation.
The options for the fifth starter, on the other hand, can be reduced to two: the other guy or the fifth wheel. No capitalization needed.
What the Phillies must decide between now and April 10 – the date of the first game they figure to need a fifth starter – is who will fill that fifth spot. If the season were to start today – an impossibility given the frigid air and all that annoying white stuff still on the ground – veteran Joe Blanton would be the other guy in the rotation.
In that case, in addition to having the best top four pitchers in baseball, the Phillies would have arguably the best No. 5 as well. Of the 30 pitchers who opened last season as fifth starters, only five pitched at least 190 innings, and only two – Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez and Washington’s ageless Livan Hernandez – pitched at least 200 innings.
Blanton, 30, has pitched more than 200 innings twice in his career and at least 194 innings in five of his six big-league seasons. The only exception was last season, when he went on the disabled list for the first time in his career after straining a muscle in his side late in spring training.
Since he joined the Phillies from Oakland at the trade deadline in 2008, the team has gone 43-29 in Blanton’s starts, and he was not pitching as a fifth starter in most of those games. No one is making the case that Blanton is a superstar, but he could be a super fifth starter.
He has posted double-digit wins four times in his career and has an overall record of 72-60 with a 4.30 ERA. Again, most of those numbers were compiled with Blanton pitching higher than fifth in the rotation.
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