Phillies Notebook: Blanton hopeful of returning - in some role - for Phillies' stretch run

Blanton
Blanton
Posted: August 31, 2011

CINCINNATI - Talking to Joe Blanton throughout the season, it has been clear how badly he wants to get back on the field and at least try to contribute something to this year's team. For a long time, that seemed like a longshot. But after a bullpen session yesterday, the veteran righthander sounded as if a return is in sight.

The next step is likely a bullpen session on Friday, but pitching coach Rich Dubee and the Phillies' training staff are already discussing how and when to get Blanton in front of some hitters.

A minor league rehab assignment sounds unlikely. After all, the minor league season ends next week. A more likely scenario will have Blanton throwing live batting practice or a simulated game to Phillies hitters during next week's homestand. Blanton said such a move would have the benefit of hitters who are familiar with his stuff and would be able to evaluate how that stuff is playing.

Blanton has no shot at rejoining the rotation. But in a perfect world, he would give the Phillies an extra arm for the stretch run, perhaps even in time for the two doubleheaders they will play in September.

"Whatever they need me to do," Blanton said.

Blanton's recovery from what has been diagnosed as inflammation in his ulnar nerve has been tenuous. He's had multiple setbacks, so a return to the active roster is still hardly a sure thing. But it is much surer now than it has been in recent memory.

The veteran righthander last pitched on May 14, when he allowed two runs in five innings of a 5-3 loss to the Braves. Back then, he was the fifth starter in the rotation. After struggling in his first two starts of the season, allowing 12 runs in 10 1/3 innings against the Mets and Nationals, he allowed nine runs in 24 innings in his next four starts. But then he started to battle pain in his elbow, which forced him to twice visit renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews in an attempt to diagnosis his problem.

There is still a possibility that he ends up needing surgery, but only if the injury worsens.

"I feel really good," Blanton said.

Vote for Dom

If Charlie Manuel gets his way, top prospect Domonic Brown will be back with the Phillies before the end of the season. Brown has struggled since rejoining Triple A Lehigh Valley after the Hunter Pence trade in late July. Two nights ago, he went 0-for-6 in a doubleheader with four strikeouts and reportedly was booed by the home crowd at Coca-Cola Park. That same day, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters he thought Brown might need some time away from baseball to recharge his batteries.

But Manuel said he understands the struggles Brown is going through. And he doesn't think they should prevent the Phillies from adding his physical talent.

"To us, he's still a big prospect," Manuel said. "We look at him as a guy who has a chance to play for us. There's no sense in why we shouldn't bring him back."

Phillers

Raul Ibanez, who has been battling a groin injury, returned to the lineup for the first time since Aug. 26. He was 3-for-5 with a two-run homer . . . Rosters for the Arizona Fall League have been announced. Representing the Phillies will be Tyler Cloyd, Jacob Diekman, B.J. Rosenberg, Colby Shreve, Cody Overbeck, Darin Ruf and Tyson Gillies.

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