Blanton works 4 solid innings in Phillies' loss

March 8, 2009 5:14:03 PM PDT
Joe Blanton pitched four good innings for Philadelphia before retreating to the bullpen to get in some more work. After a slow start last season led to a July trade to the Phillies, Blanton wants to be sharp when he makes his first regular-season start next month.

Blanton was flawless in the first two innings Sunday before laboring a little in the third and fourth, allowing one run, four hits and a walk in the Phillies' 7-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

"Overall, I felt pretty good, but my mechanics were leaving a little near the end. I had to try and fix some things (in the bullpen)," he said. "I still have plenty of time, but you don't want to leave anything hanging."

Blanton played a key role in the Phillies' World Series title last year. He went 4-0 with a 3.73 ERA in his last 11 starts of the regular season and Philadelphia won all three of his postseason starts, including Game 4 of the World Series. He was 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA with the Athletics before the trade.

"I feel like my momentum that I built at the end can carry over into this season. When you finish strong, it helps you work in the winter," Blanton said. "I'd like to think it's a sign of things to come."

Blanton struck out four over four scoreless innings in his previous spring start last week against Toronto. He feels considerably stronger than he did a year ago and looks it, too.

"Blanton's in good shape. He's ready to go," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He came to spring training in great shape, and it shows. He's close to being ready (for the regular season) now."

Also looking ready for the season is right-hander Tommy Hanson, a prized prospect trying to win a spot on Atlanta's veteran staff.

Hanson also allowed one run in four innings, but struck out seven. The 22-year-old continues to impress most everyone who sees him this spring.

Hanson admittedly was in awe of the Phillies at the start, but settled down quickly. After falling behind slugger Ryan Howard 3-0 in the third inning, he struck him out with a fastball, slider and curveball in his next three pitches.

"I'm getting comfortable out there," he said. "Maybe I was a little too pumped up at first, but I settled down. I can go out there and compete with them."

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