Blanton an example for starters moving to relief

Blanton an example for starters moving to relief

SAN FRANCISCO -- The five Dodgers starting pitchers trying to make a hurried transition to the bullpen for the postseason can pick the brain of Joe Blanton, who reinvented himself after 252 Major League starts to be the workhorse setup man for closer Kenley Jansen.

"We talk, but guys are always talking," said Blanton, who leads the team with a career-high 74 appearances. "Maybe the toughest part is that a starter knows when the game is going to start, knows what he has to do and when to do it to be ready at that precise time. We were talking the other day and, as a reliever, none of that happens. Totally different than a starter, who has a set routine."

Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood and rookies Ross Stripling and Julio Urias have had varying degrees of success and failure trying to do what Blanton has done. McCarthy, returning from Tommy John surgery, had a disastrous tryout Friday night, failing to retire any of six batters he faced in his first relief outing since 2007. Anderson, returning from back surgery and a blister, has made three relief appearances, each better than the previous.

Stripling has a 2.22 ERA in eight relief appearances in mostly multiple-inning outings, while Wood, coming off elbow surgery, had more prior experience relieving and his transition appears to have gone smoother with three scoreless outings. Urias' arrival has been even more impressive in that he's been effective starting and relieving.

"For some guys, maybe the physical thing is tougher, for me it was the routine," said Blanton, 7-2 with a 2.28 ERA, 0.975 WHIP and 10 consecutive scoreless outings. "How to get your body to stay loose because you might get called early in the game or late in the game."

Unlike McCarthy and Anderson, who have had long careers as starters, the younger Wood said his change was aided by the fact that his mindset during his rehab was to come back exclusively as a reliever.

"When I relieved earlier in my career, I was a swingman and that's the hardest role," said Wood. "This time, there wasn't enough time for me to get stretched out, so I was able to come back knowing I was a one- or two-inning guy. That's massive for me. It's helped a lot. Here's your inning, go get it and shut it down. You can also dump the tank, just attack the three guys you face, hopefully. I think mentally I was prepared for that. At this level, when you have a solid idea what they expect, that goes a long way."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.