Monday, March 31, 2014

Joe Blanton arrives in Sacramento (Q&A)

Announced on Monday, the Athletics have successfully snagged Joe Blanton from the free agent scrap heap as the infamous starter shall return to his former organization after a disastrous 2013 with Anaheim. Still guarenteed $8.5M thoughout this campaign by the SoCal club, Blanton shall contend with fellow non-roster assets such as Sean Murphy, Matt Buschmann and Phil Humber for playing opportunities within Oakland and reacclimates to the minors for the first instance since 2011 with but a mere cumulative 11 MiLB frames over the previous decade. The rotation staple upon the 2006 ALCS ballclub, throwing 194 2/3 IP within the regular season just four years following his 2002 first round selection by Oakland, Blanton manned a sensational encore with a career 2007 crusade by amassing a 5.5 fWAR and 3.50 FIP with a minuscule 4.2% BB% in a remarkable 230 inning sample size before his Athletics tenure abruptly concluded as he was dealt to Philadelphia for Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matt Spencer. After a lackluster national league initiation, Blanton found the shift from the spacious Coliseum to Philly difficult to swallow as his HR/FB skyrocketed and in response and his performance suffered. After numerous campaigns with the Phillies through 2008-2012, accumulating a 7.4 fWAR prior to his secondary deal, the hefty righty was once again swapped as he was plopped in Los Angeles in exchange for a PTBNL. The following offseason would find Blanton as a free agent, utimately settling with Anaheim for a surprising two year/$15M contact that figured to see the Kentucky alumni entrenched within the AL West starting cast for the upcoming couple supposed contending Anaheim seasons. Alas, with yet another implosion from Anaheim, Blanton unfortunately regressed significantly with a putrid -0.4 fWAR and 5.12 FIP in his 132 2/3 IP attempt along with a grotesque 19.1% HR/FB ratio which contributed to his premature spring release just prior to this impending campaign. Now, as Oakland has plundered him from the annual spring outcasts, Blanton shall don a Rivercats uniform for the first instance since 2004 in a performance that led towards his corresponding major league debut that same September. Oakland's former perennial top 10 organizational farmhand now is packaged to Sacramento a decade later at one of the lowliest stages of his career, hoping for a another rise to prominence with the organization that developed an established him as a professional baseball player. 

On his release...

"I think it was Monday or something like that, the Angels told me I was released" said Blanton in the Rivercats clubhouse. "After that, teams starting contacting and I took a day or two to weigh my options and then I decided to come back to Oakland. It was, maybe, two days ago that I was gonna come back up here, and I was already up here in the area. So I was able to stay up here and come in today"

On his return to Sacramento...

"You don't feel like you're completely starting over, but there's definitely a lot of familiarity. I mean, you look at [Rick Rodriguez], and he was the pitching coach here 10 years ago too. You go through all those things, and it just makes everything a little but easier. It makes it a really easy transition"

On his weight and physical shape...

"I was about 255 in Oakland, now I'm down to 210-ish... Certain things I'm not doing as much of anymore, so all that 'baby fat' kind of disappears. In 2011, I had that elbow injury, and it was the first time I had ever been injuried in my career. So after that, I started taking workouts a little bit more seriously and it was just a progression from there. You start working out and you realize your diet needs to change. You hit a certain age and you just can't eat the same way you used to. It wasn't one of those things were you come into camp 30 pounds lighter than you were, it was a really slow progression. It was like a 10 pounds a year thing for four years... I feel great though, I'm definitely in the best shape I've ever been in. That's key, and being 33 makes it a definite positive. It's just about going out there and repeating mechanics and doing the things on the mound you need to do to get better every day."

On his simulated game in Sacramento...

"It was good. I mean, a simulated game is a simulated game. It kind of felt like practice and the adrenaline wasn't totally there, plus you're facing your own hitters which is always different. My pitch count has been up the past couple starts to 85-90, so it was more about getting back out there after a week and keeping the reps up. Between just getting a feel for the catcher and some pointers here and there, so it was really a combination of things, but it was good" 

Blanton is set to debut upon Sacramento's trek to Salt Lake during this upcoming weekend against the AAA affiliate of his most recent organization. 

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