Sarah's Take: Blanton bolsters strong rotation

Sarah's Take: Blanton bolsters strong rotation

Sarah's Take: Blanton bolsters strong rotation
On Friday, the Dodgers claimed right-hander Joe Blanton from the Philadelphia Phillies off waivers. Obtaining Blanton for a player to be named later strengthened the Dodgers' starting rotation, which has been a goal of Dodger general manager Ned Colletti since the beginning of the season.

Despite having the second-best pitching staff in the Major Leagues, the Dodgers haven't been comfortable with their starting rotation for the entire season. The recent news about pitchers trying to come back from arm injuries added to their insecurities.

Since late May, Ted Lilly has had a sore shoulder. His rehabilitation progress has been agonizingly slow. Headed into his second rehab start, Lilly experienced shoulder pain again. On Tuesday he began throwing off a mound. No one knows if Lilly will pitch competitively again this season.

Last August when Rubby De La Rosa injured his elbow requiring Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers didn't expect him to pitch competitively until Spring Training of 2013. However, his rehabilitation progress has been remarkable. He pitched at Class A and did well. In his second rehab assignment start, he suffered a slight groin pull. Although he is listed as day-to-day, the Dodgers shouldn't rush him back on the mound again this season. His young pitching arm is too valuable to risk.

During this past off-season, Colletti couldn't afford the top tier of free-agent starters. There were not many to be had anyway. Colletti signed Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. Although both have done well, these journeymen starters don't produce much confidence within the Dodger organization. The new ownership wants a starter that makes a splash and will take the Dodgers to the playoffs.

Rumors have said that the Dodgers claimed Cliff Lee off waivers. However, the Dodgers probably can't work out a trade with the Phillies to get the former Cy Young award winner, because their Minor League system is depleted of top prospects.

Chad Billingsley began the season strongly, but by May he suffered from inconsistency. His inconsistency and inability to go longer than five innings in a game frustrated Don Mattingly and Rick Honeycutt. It also added more stress to an already overworked bullpen. Since Billingsley has an amazingly wide array of quality pitches, Honeycutt wants him to attack the strike zone.

Many people perceive a lack of confidence in Billingsley when he nibbles at the strike zone and overuses his cutter. Since Billingsley has much natural talent, this perceived lack of confidence frustrates and angers people, especially Mattingly and Honeycutt. They don't understand that Billingsley's pitches move so much that they are hard to control. Sometimes the only pitch that he can control is his cutter.

After the All-Star break, Billingsley admitted that he had been experiencing elbow soreness. The Dodgers immediately put him on the disabled list and did an MRI that revealed elbow inflammation. After missing two starts, Billingsley returned and has pitched very well in his last three starts. If Billingsley doesn't experience any more elbow soreness, he should be an asset to the Dodgers' starting rotation.

Although the Dodgers management worries about the bullpen being overworked, the Dodgers starters have pitched the fifth-most innings in the National League, averaging just over six innings a start. The problem with the bullpen is that no reliever goes longer than one inning per outing. This might enable relievers to pitch on consecutive days, but it still tires them out by the end of the season.

The Dodgers management didn't want a rookie pitching in the starting rotation. Both Nate Eovaldi and Stephen Fife pitched well in their opportunities, but management didn't trust them pitching down the stretch for the division title.

The acquisition of Blanton gives the Dodgers an experienced starter. Although he began his Major League career with the Oakland A's, he has pitched for the Phillies the past four seasons. He knows how to handle the pressure of going to the playoffs and beyond. He doesn't walk many, so he should be able to give the Dodgers innings to rest the weary bullpen.

Blanton played a valuable role on the 2008 World Series champion Phillies team. No other Dodgers right-handed starter has an excellent curveball, so Blanton gives the Dodgers more diversity in their starting rotation.

The Dodgers already had a good starting rotation, but obtaining Blanton makes it better. If the Dodgers can continue pitching well and have more consistent offense, they should be able to catch the San Francisco Giants and win the National League West.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.