Joe Blanton was jacked and ready to go when he stepped on the mound. After all, he hadn’t started a game that meant something since September 2011. And even then, the Phillies had the division locked up and he was pitching just to see if he still could.
But against the Miami Marlins Thursday night, Blanton came out firing bullets in a way I’d never seen before. Routinely through the first few innings, Big Joe registered 91 on the radar gun; even touching 92 a handful of times. Were the juices flowing? Or is this a new/improved Joe Blanton?
According to Fangraphs.com Pitch F/X, Blanton’s average fastball throughout his career is 89.6. It’s hard to imagine him gaining two miles per hour on his fastball, however, it’s not completely inconceivable. After a full offseason to return to normal following elbow trouble, maybe Blanton just feels healthy once again.
Eventually, Blanton’s fastball leveled off at 90 for much of the night, but it was nice to see him ramp it up early and prove that elbow is whole.
“It feels good,” said Blanton. “It’s fun to be back out there and not have anything weighing on my mind – if this pitch is going to hurt or if I’m going to be able to make it through.”Overall, it was a solid evening for Joe B., as he reached the sixth inning for the first time sine April 23, 2011 (hat tip- David Hale of the Wilmington News Journal). None of his previous starts – not during the regular season, spring training, or rehab appearances – had gone past five innings. When Blanton retired for the evening after seven innings or three-hit ball, striking out three. It took him just 85 pitches.
Not a bad day.
He was certainly aided by the wizardry of Freddy Galvis at second base. He made a couple of ridiculous stops – although was inexplicably charged with an error on a rope by Jose Reyes in the sixth inning.
That’s Joe, though, in a nutshell. Throw strikes, hit the corners, let your defense do the talking.
Start one of the 2012 season was top notch for Joe Blanton.