On July 22, 2013, Joe Blanton took the mound as a starter for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He gave up four runs and could not finish the fourth inning. His record fell to 2-13. Blanton pitched in relief for the rest of the season, and it looked like that inglorious outing would be the final start of a 10-year career.
Instead, Blanton, the 34-year-old right-hander, returned to baseball after sitting out the 2014 season. He agreed to a minor-league contract with Kansas City and spent the first month of the season in Class AAA Omaha. The deal included an opt-out clause for the middle of May, so the Royals rejiggered their roster to bring Blanton up.
“That’s why we made a spot for him,” manager Ned Yost said before Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. “He had thrown well enough to show us that he could help us. It would have been no question, if the results were mixed, but they weren’t.”
And now Blanton (0-0, 1.80 ERA) will start for the Royals on Wednesday night against Milwaukee at Kauffman Stadium. He has temporarily replaced Jason Vargas in the rotation. Vargas is recovering from another strain of the flexor muscle in his left elbow.
Yost said he expects Blanton to throw about 75 to 80 pitches. He has been throwing his fastball at nearly 92 mph, harder than he did in his prime with Oakland and Philadelphia. He mixes his slider and changeup to keep hitters off balance.
“He can command the baseball,” Yost said. “He knows what he’s doing out there. He can execute pitches. He just doesn’t stand there and throw it. He knows what he wants to do with every pitch.”