Joe Blanton tried to pitch his way through the pain this time a year ago. He made four starts in April, but gave up 12 runs in the first two. He wasn't right.
Blanton returned from the disabled list and tried to make a go of it again in May, but after just two starts, he reached a new rock bottom on May 19.
"I tried to come back and was supposed to start here against Colorado," Blanton said. "Trying to warm up in the bullpen, I was feeling like I couldn't even throw it 60 feet. And then (to) add insult to injury, (Kyle Kendrick) has to run out at the last minute completely off pace and has to jump in the game and has a bad game because he wasn't prepared. I felt a lot of things right there. I just felt terrible."
Blanton was limited to a career-low eight starts last season. But he showed up to spring training healthy two months ago and rebooted his career with a sparkling performance in his first start of 2012.
Blanton held the Miami Marlins to one run on three hits in seven innings of a 3-1 win Thursday. The win gave the Phillies their first series victory and also their first winning streak of 2012.
"Joe was outstanding from the get-go," first baseman Ty Wigginton said. "And when you get a pitcher throwing the ball like that, it's definitely a lot of fun to play baseball."
"He was good tonight - he was very good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "When he started the game, I was looking to see if he'd hold the velocity on his fastball and he definitely did that. He ended up pitching a heck of a game."
Matched up with veteran lefty Mark Buehrle, Blanton held his own from the get-go. He retried the first seven batters and 14 of the first 15.
He finished strong, too. In the sixth, Blanton escaped a two-on, one-out jam by getting out the meat of the Marlins order, Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison. In the seventh, he recorded his fourth 1-2-3 inning of the night.
"It's fun to be back out there and not have anything weighing on my mind (wondering) if this pitch is going to hurt, if I'm going to be able to make it through," Blanton said. "It feels good to get back out there and be able to contribute to this team."