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Angels pitcher Joe Blanton makes quick work of Cubs in 4-2 loss

March 03, 2013|By Mike DiGiovanna
(Sarah Glenn / Getty Images…)

TEMPE, Ariz. — It took Joe Blanton about four times as long to complete his postgame workout and stretching regimen Sunday as it did for him to get through two innings in the Angels’ 4-2 exhibition loss to a Chicago Cubs split-squad team in Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Blanton, the veteran right-hander who was making his first start in an Angels uniform after signing a two-year, $15-million deal in December, needed only 20 pitches to zip through two innings.

He gave up a solo home run to Brian Bogusevic in the first and retired the other six batters he faced before heading to the bullpen to throw 20 more pitches to reach his 40-pitch target.

“I’ve always felt like working quick is going to be to my benefit and my team’s benefit as opposed to the hitters,” Blanton said. “It keeps the defense on its toes, and if it’s a quick inning, they can get back in and hit and keep their rhythm.

“Some guys feel a little more comfortable going slow. I like to go quicker, get the ball and throw, and throwing strikes is the key to the game.”

Blanton was followed on the mound by reliever Michael Kohn, who continued his strong return from Tommy John surgery by retiring the side in order in the third, his fastball reaching the 94-mph range.

Japanese right-hander Hiroyuki Kobayashi struck out two batters with nasty split-finger fastballs but gave up a solo home run to Brad Nelson on a fastball in the eighth.

The veteran right-hander is an intriguing long-relief candidate because of his experience and vast repertoire, but he’ll need to boost his fastball from the 86-mph range he has been throwing at this spring.

“He had a great split today, and his fastball velocity was about what we’ve seen, but the command of his fastball wasn’t quite as crisp,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think he does have a little more velocity in him, but we haven’t seen it yet.”

Scioscia thinks Kobayashi will have to boost his fastball at least to the 90-mph range to be effective.

“The thing about guys who throw the fastball and the split, they’re really sensitive to velocity,” Scioscia said. “If they’re throwing at 90, 91, 92 miles per hour, that’s one thing, but if they’re at 86, 87 mph, they’re not getting the dimension of that split-finger like they can. He’s working into his stuff. We’ll see where his velocity ends up.”

Josh Hamilton, making his third start at designated hitter because of a sore left quadriceps, capped an eight-pitch at-bat with a leadoff single and later scored in the fourth. Brandon Harris tripled and scored on a groundout in the sixth for the Angels’ other run.

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