CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Joe Blanton used a mix of fastballs and changeups to shut down the Detroit Tigers, leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-0 victory Thursday.
Blanton has focused solely on the fastball-changeup combination in his first two spring starts before he incorporates breaking pitches into his repertoire. So far the results have been promising: Blanton held the Tigers to three singles in four innings of work.
"I've never really done it this way, but my changeup was so big for me last year that I really want to get good command of it on both sides of the plate to both righties and lefties before I move on," Blanton said. "I'm still throwing the other stuff on the side. I just figure if I can get those basics down, I can expand off of that."
The 29-year-old Blanton is hoping corralling command of the changeup early will help him avoid the early season slump he endured in 2009. Blanton had a 7.11 ERA over his first eight starts last year.
In his final 23 starts, beginning in mid-May, Blanton was 10-5 with a 3.16 ERA. The timing coincided with when he began to feel comfortable with throwing the changeup.
"It was a really big pitch for me," Blanton said. "It's a big pitch in today's game — it really keeps hitters off balance. Last year, I used it against righties and lefties both and it helped me out in a lot of situations when I didn't have a good curve ball or a good slider. I was able to get them out on changeups and it helped out a lot last year. So if I can establish a base with that, I'll move on to the breaking pitches."
After getting hit hard in his first start — the Pittsburgh Pirates scored three times off him in the first inning last Saturday — Blanton has a 4.50 ERA in two Grapefruit League games.
"We have a good ways to go yet and he should be ready once the season starts," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think last year he was a little sharper at this time. But at the same time, it's coming. He's looked sharper with each time out."
The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the third inning with a one-out rally against Detroit ace Justin Verlander. Top infield prospect Freddy Galvis, a shortstop, followed a double from Brian Schneider with a single to bring home the first run.
Shane Victorino, who collected two hits off Verlander, followed with a single through the hole at second. One out later, Chase Utley singled Galvis in to make it 2-0.
Victorino and Utley both finished 2 for 3. Raul Ibanez added a solo home run off hard-throwing Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya in the sixth inning.
The home run was the first of the spring for Ibanez.
After Blanton exited, David Herndon, Joe Savery, Yohan Flande and Scott Mathieson combined for five no-hit innings. Mathieson, who is attempting to make the team after two Tommy John surgeries, struck out two batters to finish off the Tigers in the ninth.
NOTES: Herndon, the Phillies' selection in the Rule 5 draft in December, has yet to allow a run or a hit in four appearances this spring. Herndon pitched a scoreless fifth inning against the Tigers; he walked one and struck out one. ... The Phillies play a split-squad Friday in Lakeland against the Tigers and in Port Charlotte against the Rays. RHP Drew Naylor is on tap to pitch against the Tigers and LHP J.A. Happ gets the start against the Rays. ... Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson, one of the players the Tigers received in the three-team trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees, had one of the Tigers' three hits Thursday.