With Blanton, Phils Have Limited Options

With Blanton, Phils Have Limited Options

I don't dislike Joe Blanton, and I don't begrudge the Phillies for the three-year, $24 million contract they gave him after he helped them to reach consecutive World Series, winning one. That being said, this is as bad as he's pitched for as lengthy a stretch -- without explanation -- since coming over from Oakland for prospects in 2008.

Oh, 2010 was bad. It took him the balance of the season just to lower a plus-7.00 ERA in June to sub-5.00 before the year was out, but he eventually did it, and anyway, explanation: he started the campaign on the DL. Why Heavy B is casually handing out home runs like they were cookies or after-dinner mints is a bit of a mystery in 2012.

Especially given how things began. Four outings ago, Blanton was cruising, easily off to his best start with the Phillies. He was 4-3, his ERA a tidy 2.96, and looking as if he might even be deadline trade bait. Nothing grand in return, mind you, but maybe Blanton could at least net a dependable arm for the bullpen assuming the rest of the staff was healthy.

Who knows, perhaps things will turn around for Big Joe, and a fringe team will take a chance on him anyway knowing he can serve as a three or a four for a championship run, just hoping a change of scenery will turn his luck around. Then again, whether the Phillies are really in any position to consider such a move has become something of an issue on to itself.

The most obvious hurdle is the fact that the rotation has seen better days. Vance Worley comes back from the DL tonight, but Roy Halladay takes his place, and this time we're talking months, not weeks. Part of any Blanton deal hinged on the idea Kyle Kendrick could step into the role of the fifth starter, but that already happens to be the case for the near future.

As president of the KK fan club, I realize there weren't necessarily a ton of people on board with that blueprint, but should this squad sneak into the playoffs, they only need four pitchers. When you break it down, they only require that fifth starter's services roughly 10 times over the final two months of the season anyway. Unfortunately, the dirty truth is the Phillies all of a sudden are one injury away to their starters from finding themselves in some fairly dire straits.

Maybe not even an injury. See, the reason we bring all this to your attention is because, with these kinds of performances, you sort of have to wonder how much longer this team relies on Blanton at all. The man has an earned run average of 10.98 in his last four games. Of course you give him another start, or two, or three... but how long can a ball club that's supposedly in playoff contention live with complete ineffectiveness every fifth day?

Roy Oswalt signed with the Texas Rangers last week -- there goes that. Not sure there are any answers in the farm system either. From following our new Pharm Watch feature, I thought a kid like Austin Hyatt might have a chance to step in, but I was sorry to learn he's struggled and was recently demoted to Reading. Tyler Cloyd has been the best guy at Triple A, but the 25-year-old righty has looked human recently (5.09 ERA in last three starts). Apparently he's not ready, and after that, it's Scott Elarton, who last pitched in the Majors in '08.

So in short, banishing Blanton to the bullpen and giving some kid a chance doesn't appear to be much of an option right now, unless they're really going to reach. It seems Joe Blanton, sieve, is going to have every opportunity to pitch his way out of this, and that sounds like bad news for the Phils.

Overreact much? Sure, we're essentially talking about four outings, prior to which Blanton was actually quite stellar. With an adjustment or two, he could be right back on track, eating innings, being Joe Blanton. That would be enough for now.

If it doesn't happen, it's hard to say where the Fightins go from here. Maybe Doc gets healthy, the rest of the staff stays intact, and Kendirck then takes Blanton's place full time. Unfortunately, each and every game is so important at the moment, and furthermore, Halladay coming back appears to be a ways off. Until then, I guess the Phillies are just gonna have to go back to being like every other team in MLB, with some woeful fifth starter whose occasional win feels like a minor miracle.

Pete Mackanin sends Cesar Hernandez a message

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The Associated Press

Pete Mackanin sends Cesar Hernandez a message

Pete Mackanin dropped second baseman Cesar Hernandez to eighth in the batting order for Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Nationals.

“If you want to call it a message you can call it a message,” Mackanin said.

Hernandez entered the game hitting .255 with a .616 OPS. Last year, he hit .272 with and .687 OPS.

“I expect more out of him,” Mackanin said. “I think he's a better hitter than he's shown. I think he's a .280 hitter and I think he's at .250. I want to see improvement. We need him to get back up to .280, where I think he belongs. He’s got to make adjustments. We need offense.”

Mackanin pointed to Hernandez’ double-play partner, shortstop Freddy Galvis, as an example of a player who has made improvements.

Galvis entered Tuesday night hitting .257 with a .696 OPS. But in the month of May, he was hitting .277 with a .708 OPS.

“Freddy is starting to come on,” Mackanin said. “He’s starting to make adjustments.”

Galvis has also played excellent defense.

The Phillies are a rebuilding club with a number of potential big-league contributors rounding out their development in the minors. The team’s top prospect is a shortstop – J.P. Crawford – and he’s in Triple A now. It’s not out of the question that he will be the team’s opening day shortstop next season.

Crawford’s eventual ascension impacts both Galvis and Hernandez. Galvis can also play second base. Whether Hernandez or Galvis becomes the second baseman when Crawford arrives could be determined by who hits. This is the time to make impressions.

“That's basically what it boils down to,” Mackanin said. “I've even talked to them about that — 'It's an important year for both of you because there are people who want to be in the big leagues that are in the minor leagues and want to take your job.' You have to approach it that way. You can't let down. You have to stay focused and work hard.”

While all signs point to Crawford taking over at shortstop in the future, Mackanin said Galvis’ defense should not be taken for granted.

“As well as Freddy is playing shortstop, you'd hate to move a guy like that out of that position,” Mackanin said. “It's a defensive position and he's been so good at it.”

Galvis entered Tuesday night with just two errors in 50 games. His .990 fielding percentage trailed only San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford and Detroit’s Jose Iglesias, both .995.

National champion Villanova honored by President Obama

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National champion Villanova honored by President Obama

WASHINGTON — For the most successful senior class in the history of Villanova basketball, Tuesday's trip to the White House was the culmination of a championship season and quite possibly the final time the 2016 National Championship team will be together as one.

President Barack Obama praised their poise, which was epitomized by the final play when Ryan Arcidiacono fed Kris Jenkins for the buzzer-beating, championship-winning three-pointer.

"A lot of teams would have had their spirit broken — the Wildcats, they took control, they responded," Obama said. "And on a play called ' 'Nova,' Kris took a pass from Arch and pulled up a few steps behind the line and shot this team into basketball lore. That was a good shot. It was like Christian Laettner-good. It was like a Jimmy-V-running-up-and-down-the-court shot. Charles Barkley apparently jumped out of his seat, which — (laughter) — he doesn’t do very often these days." 

In what has become customary for a championship team's visit, head coach Jay Wright presented the 44th President of the United States with a Wildcat jersey and the number "44." The Wildcats wore the uniform when they played Oklahoma on Dec. 7 of last year in Obama's home state of Hawaii.

"This was an amazing day for us," Wright said. "We not only presented him with the jersey, but with a picture of him that mirrored Kris Jenkins hitting that game-winning shot, because we've got a lot of respect for him as a great leader."

While gracious as guests at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., it was the Wildcats who spoiled Obama's tournament bracket when they knocked off the president's pre-tournament pick, Kansas, in the Elite Eight on their way to the Final Four. At the time he made his picks back in March, Obama mentioned Wright's Wildcats, telling ESPN, "I know eventually they're going to break through." He just wasn't confident enough to see the 'Cats win it all roughly three and a half weeks later.

Obama on Tuesday confirmed he should have listened to his second-in-command, "Joe (Biden) wanted me to remind you that he picked 'Nova to win it all. This is the type of wise counsel that you are looking for from a vice president. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow his counsel and so my bracket was busted.

Wearing a stars-and-stripes bow tie, junior Josh Hart, who decided last week to return to Villanova for his senior season, attended nearby Sidwell Friends School, where he was a classmate with President Obama's oldest daughter Malia.

"We talked a little, not too much," Hart said. "I try to give her some space. She's busy with senior projects and graduation and stuff."

Now Hart will refocus on guiding Villanova to become the first school since the Florida Gators in 2006-07 to win back-to-back National titles, and with that, a return trip to the White House.

Kris Jenkins shared video of Villanova doing Running Man Challenge at White House

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Kris Jenkins shared video of Villanova doing Running Man Challenge at White House

Tony Hawk has skateboarded at the White House. Women's lacrosse champions have worn fliflops at the White House.

Now, the Villanova Wildcats have done the Running Man Challenge at the White House.

The video was shared on Kris Jenkins' Instagram account this afternoon. They don't call him "Big Smooth" for nothing.

Officially ending this Runningman challenge. Presidential edition. #GameBlouses #NovaSzn

A video posted by Kris Jenkins (@bigsmoove2) on

In case you missed it earlier, President Obama welcomed the 2016 NCAA Champion Villanova Wildcats to his crib and called Jay Wright the, "George Clooney of coaches." He's not wrong.