Whether Blanton puts himself onto the 25-man roster depends on a number of variables. First and foremost is how he pitches during this season-ending series against the Braves, which the Phillies opened up with a 4-2 victory last night at Turner Field. Second, and closely intertwined, is his health. The 30-year-old drew positive reviews in both departments after starting Game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader against the Mets.
Blanton, who entered the season as the No. 5 starter and made six starts before hitting the disabled list in mid-May, threw two scoreless innings, allowing one baserunner with three strikeouts before turning things over to the rest of the bullpen. Since returning to action on Sept. 12, Blanton has allowed one run, four hits and no walks with seven strikeouts in five innings. His fastball has its usual, and perhaps even better, velocity. His arm looks strong.
"I like Blanton," Manuel said. "I like kind of where he's at right now, as far as what he's been through. He can definitely pitch a couple innings.
"He's throwing better than I probably expected. We'll see. We'll see how he does this week."
The final spot in the bullpen is likely to come down to Blanton and righthander David Herndon, who since May 1 has a 1.99 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings. That's assuming the Phillies keep righthanders Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick, both of whom have spent much of the season in the rotation.
Two weeks ago, Manuel sounded like he was leaning toward keeping six relievers and seven bench players. But the Phillies' young relievers, particularly lefty setup man Antonio Bastardo, have had shaky months. Before last night's game, Bastardo had a length chat with Phillies Radio Network color man Larry Andersen, who relied heavily on his slider during his major league career. Bastardo said on Sunday that he has had trouble gripping the pitch. The Phillies also have said they think Bastardo has been tipping the pitch.
Bastardo has allowed at least one run in four of his last six outings, garnering just two strikeouts while walking five.
"I'm concerned," Manuel said. "But at the same time, I know that the stuff is still there."
Still, at this point, the Phillies are leaning toward keeping a seventh reliever, particularly since few vying for bench spots have distinguished themselves.
The Phillies informed the following players that they will not be on the roster for the NLDS, which begins on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park against the Diamondbacks, Brewers or Cardinals: righthanders Justin De Fratus and Michael Schwimer, lefthander Joe Savery, and outfielders Domonic Brown and Brandon Moss.
De Fratus, Savery and Brown will report to Clearwater, Fla., to compete in the instructional league while staying sharp in case the Phillies need them. Moss and Schwimer were told they will not be needed in Clearwater.
Ruben Amaro Jr. said the organization has invited Manuel's entire coaching staff back for next season. Whether all of those invitations are accepted remains to be seen . . . Chase Utley once again batted second, with Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino book-ending Ryan Howard. Charlie Manuel indicated that he is likely to stick with the lineup during the postseason.