SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Angels' most intriguing start of the spring could come Monday, when Joe Blanton takes his next turn. If the former Kentucky standout turns in a second consecutive strong performance, the Angels might have to consider whether they can afford to get rid of him.
That might sound ludicrous, given how poorly Blanton pitched last year. But the Angels appear short on pitching depth. Without Blanton, the Angels' depth chart would have seven starters. Of the 30 major-league teams, only the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers did not use more than seven starters last season.
For now, the Angels do not project Blanton on their roster. He is not one of the five starters.
On Saturday, when Manager Mike Scioscia named three pitchers who could serve as a long reliever, he did not include Blanton among them.
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"That's good," Blanton said of Scioscia's remarks. "I've had a pretty decent career. I view myself as a starter. Some guys have to change eventually. I don't think I have that mindset yet."
Blanton, 33, was 2-14 with a 6.04 earned-run average last season. The Angels owe him $8.5 million.
They were all but resigned to releasing him after his first two spring outings, in which he gave up nine runs in 52⁄3 innings. In his last outing, he pitched five scoreless innings, after moving from the first base side of the rubber to the third base side.
"Never done it in my life, well, guaranteed I haven't done it since I was 15," Blanton said. "I can't tell you before that."
If Blanton pitches well once or twice more, the Angels might get a call from a team in last-minute need of a starting pitcher, and they probably would absorb most of his salary in a trade. However, if they trade or release him, their starting depth beyond the top five would consist of Wade LeBlanc, dumped by the San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins and Houston Astros within the last three years, and Matt Shoemaker, a 27-year-old with one major-league appearance.
In Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, the Angels have entrusted three starting spots to youngsters who have yet to pitch a full season in a major-league rotation. Yet, the Angels did not even pretend that Blanton would compete for one of those spots this spring.
"That's the way of the world," Blanton said. "That's the business we're in."
Blanton said he does not think he needs a fresh start elsewhere and said he would accept a bullpen role if necessary. He also said last season was a bad season, not an end to his career.
"I had eight pretty good years and one half-year, well, three-fourths of a year, when I wasn't good at all," he said. "I prefer to be a starter. That's what I have been. That's what I want to be. If that doesn't happen, I'll still go out and compete the best I can."