The Pittsburgh Pirates announced just before 1AM on Thursday that they have acquired right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for the wildly popular “cash considerations”. Blanton, a 34-year-old who was a 1st round draft pick of the Oakland Athletics in 2002, has spent the majority of his major league career as a starter, although this season has seen him being used mainly out of the bullpen. Blanton owns a career 87-91 record and a 4.50 ERA in 280 games, with 252 of those as a starter. This season for the Royals, he was 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA in 15 games, only 4 as a starter.
Although there has been no announcement from Pirates management as to how Blanton will be utilized, speculation is that he will be a middle innings reliever. The Pirates have a glaring need in that area, having seen Deolis Guerra, Arquimedes Caminero, and Antonio Bastardo struggle mightily this season. Manager Clint Hurdle has grown increasingly frustrated with those three, so much so that on Tuesday night, when Tony Watson couldn’t shut the Twins down in the 8th inning, Hurdle called on closer Mark Melancon to finish the 8th, and then return to close out the 9th in an 8-7 Pirates victory.
The Blanton acquisition is the second move by GM Neal Huntington in July. Last Thursday, Huntington acquired veteran 3B Aramis Ramirez and $3 million in cash from Milwaukee for minor league pitcher Yhonathan Barrios. The acquisition of Michael Morse also has Pirates fans eager to see how things unfold in the duration of the season.
The Pirates enter play on Saturday in second place in the NL Central, 5-1/2 games behind St. Louis, and with a firm grip on the first wild card berth, owning a 4 game lead on the San Fransisco Giants.