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Joe Blanton is no lock for Angels rotation

The right-hander, who hopes to bounce back from a dismal 2013 season, can help add depth to the Angels pitching staff after Mark Mulder sustained an Achilles' tendon injury.

February 17, 2014|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Veteran right-hander Joe Blanton made 28 appearances for the Angels last season, including 20 starts. He had a 2-14 record with a 6.04 earned-run average.
Veteran right-hander Joe Blanton made 28 appearances for the Angels last… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

TEMPE, Ariz. — His $8.5-million contract guarantees him nothing beyond a pile of money. His spring-training locker is among the five corner cubicles reserved for established starting pitchers, but he is as much of a rotation lock as the reporters milling around it.

Joe Blanton is back, which says more about the Angels' lack of pitching depth than his status with the club. But that's irrelevant to Blanton, who looks to bounce back from a dismal season in which he went 2-14 with a 6.04 earned-run average and gave up 29 homers.

"Last season was by far the worst I've ever had — no other season comes close — and I don't want to repeat that," said Blanton, who is in the second year of a two-year, $15-million deal. "Hopefully, I made some changes that are good. I'm anxious to throw like I can throw and make last year a blip on the radar."

Blanton thinks he corrected a major mechanical flaw last September, long after he was demoted to the bullpen, that will help him regain his pre-2013 form, when he went 83-75 with a 4.37 ERA in eight seasons.

The Angels aren't counting on a rebound. They traded slugger Mark Trumbo for left-handers Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs to fill out the rotation beyond Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards, and added Mark Mulder for depth.

"There was a crevice in the pitching staff that needed to be filled," said Manager Mike Scioscia. "It wasn't a little crack. It was big."

The Angels were hoping Blanton would pitch well enough for a team to absorb some of his salary in a trade. But when Mulder sustained a ruptured Achilles' tendon Saturday, Blanton went from afterthought to important rotation depth.

"Jamie Moyer used to say he'd come to spring training every year with something to prove — I think that's a good way to approach it," Blanton said. "I can't cruise through spring thinking I have a spot. I have to come in ready."

Said Scioscia: "Joe needs to make adjustments and put his best foot forward. He had a terrible season, but when he's throwing to the best of his ability he's capable of getting major league hitters out."

Relief option

It has been 14 years since the Angels carried a Rule 5 pick on their big league roster — the last was reliever Derrick Turnbow in 2000 — but left-hander Brian Moran could break the streak.

Toronto selected Moran, 25, from Seattle in December's Rule 5 draft and traded him to the Angels. If Moran doesn't make the team and clears waivers, the Mariners could re-acquire him for $25,000.

Moran went 2-5 with a 3.45 ERA for triple-A Tacoma last season, limiting left-handers to a .235 average. He has a below-average fastball, but his funky delivery helped him hold left-handers to a .591 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS). He struggled against right-handers, who had an .894 OPS against him.

Moran, Clay Rapada or Robert Carson could give the Angels a second left-handed relief option behind Sean Burnett, who is returning from elbow surgery and might not be ready by opening day.

With the American League West filled with powerful left-handed bats, Moran could help neutralize hitters such as Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano and Shin-Soo Choo.

Scioscia will not carry a second left-hander in the bullpen "at the expense of losing a good right-handed arm," but he is intrigued by Moran.

"I don't think he's going to wow you with a lot of his stuff, but there's no doubt he has been very effective against left-handers," Scioscia said. "Everything we've seen on videotape and statistically puts him in the mix to make our club."

Short hops

General Manager Jerry Dipoto is in no rush to add a starting pitcher after Mulder's injury. "I don't think it's a critical need," he said, "but once we get into games, we'll find out." … Position players report Tuesday ahead of the first full-squad workout Wednesday.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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