Blanton pressed into action in return to bigs

Club options Brooks to Triple-A, transfers Flynn to 60-day DL

Blanton pressed into action in return to bigs

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals and right-hander Joe Blanton have White Sox pitcher Zach Duke to thank for Blanton's comeback to the Major Leagues.

Blanton's contract was selected by the Royals on Saturday, and the team also optioned Aaron Brooks to Triple-A Omaha while transferring Brian Flynn (latissimus dorsi tear) to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Blanton on the 40-man roster.

Blanton will start out in the long relief role, according to manager Ned Yost. Blanton made his Royals debut by firing four innings in a 5-1 los to the Yankees on Saturday night. He went three scoreless before giving up a homer to Alex Rodriguez in the ninth.

"Blanton did a nice job," Yost said. "He commands the baseball, he's on the attack. He gets quick outs with his stuff."

But the fact that Blanton, 34, even made it through Spring Training with the Royals and eventually back to the big leagues happened somewhat by chance.

Blanton retired in April 2014 after two so-so outings in the Athletics' Minor League system. That came after a dreadful 2-14 season with the Angels in '13.

"The game just wasn't fun anymore," Blanton said.

But then last December, Duke moved into Blanton's neighborhood about 30 miles north of Nashville, Tenn. One day, Blanton approached him about just playing catch.

"I told him, 'Hey, if you need to throw, I can still throw it back to you,'" Blanton said. "You know, I never had any physical problems. I just thought, 'Let's see where it takes me, and find out if I still enjoy it."

Turns out, Blanton felt pretty good playing catch with Duke. Then in late February, Blanton's agent arranged for a "throw day" in front of scouts from several teams, including the Royals, who eventually signed him.

Blanton didn't make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training and went to Omaha, where he posted a 3-2 record with a 3.89 ERA. Friday was Blanton's opt-out day, meaning he could have signed with another team on Saturday if he wasn't on the 25-man roster.

Blanton said it never came to the point of negotiating with any other team.

"I really didn't have [thoughts about the opt-out]," he said. "It never got to that point. I was just trying to block out the business side. I was just trying to focus on pitching and doing my everyday routine."

After a long absence from the big leagues, Blanton is pretty excited to be back.

"I would say this is a little special after basically not playing last year," Blanton said. "I really didn't have plans on playing again last year at this time. This is kind of proof to myself that I can still do it. It's satisfying."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.