Blanton and Lidge Keep Moving Closer

(Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In a perfect world, the Phillies would be able to have Joe Blanton start a game and then hand it off to Brad Lidge. Their perfect world was in Reading Friday night when Blanton and Lidge continued their rehab assignments with Double-A Reading.

Joe Blanton wasn't exactly perfect in his outing with the Double-A Reading Phillies Friday night, but he was close enough. Over three innings of work, Blanton threw 45 pitches, giving up four hits and a walk, but pitching out of jams to keep Richmond off the board during his outing. Blanton allowed two singles in the second, including one with two outs. He came back to get the final out - a weak fly ball to center field - without any damage.

In the third, Blanton put himself in serious trouble, but again worked himself out of the jam. After giving up a leadoff double, Darren Ford singled to left to put runners on first and third with nobody out. Blanton literally took on a different appearance in his determination and picked Ford off of first and then struck out Brandon Crawford for the second out of the inning. To make things a little more challenging, Blanton walked Thomas Neal to again put runners on the corner, but got Roger Kieschnick to strike out swinging to end the inning.

Blanton was just about where the Phillies wanted him to be on his pitch count and so far, his rehab assignment has gone pretty well. Obviously, Blanton isn't close to returning to the rotation and will likely make at least two more starts before there is even any consideration given to putting him back into the Phillies rotation. His next outing will likely come on Wednesday at Reading. From there, Blanton will likely move up to pitch for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and his first start there would likely come on Monday May 3. From there, he could potentially be activated from the DL.

When Blanton exited, Brad Lidge followed him to the mound. Lidge, making his sixth rehab appearance and first with Reading, was pitching in back-to-back games for the first time. Lidge threw a shutout inning for Lehigh Valley Thursday night and did the same for Reading on Friday. Lidge gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single to center field, but got two ground balls to short to finish off Richmond in the top of the fourth. In his one inning of work, Lidge threw 18 pitches.

After his outing with Lehigh Valley, Lidge said that he felt like he was getting close to being able to pitch at the major league level. On Friday, he reiterated that he's getting close and feels better every time that he takes the mound. "I actually felt better today than yesterday," said Lidge. "I'm very encouraged."

The plan for Lidge now, will be a couple of days off before another appearance with Reading on Monday and then his situation will be reevaluated to determine whether he will continue his rehab assignment or join the Phillies. It's likely that Lidge won't rejoin the Phillies until they come off of their three-city road trip, which concludes in San Francisco next Wednesday. From there, the Phillies will enjoy an off-day on Thursday before a weekend series against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Lidge is hopeful that he'll be ready for that series.

"At this point, it's really just fine tuning," reported Lidge after his outing at Reading.

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