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Joe Blanton takes 'step forward' in Angels' 3-2 loss to Athletics

BaseballSportsMajor League BaseballLos Angeles AngelsOakland AthleticsMike SciosciaHector Santiago

TEMPE, Ariz. -- As the Angels identify their starting rotation, Joe Blanton is on the outside looking in.

Blanton lost his spot in the rotation last season. If he pitches well this spring and the Angels still like their starting five, they might be able to trade him. If he does not pitch well, they might have to release him.

With scouts from other teams in attendance Sunday, Blanton got off to a rough start in his Cactus League debut. He entered the game in the fifth inning and gave up hits to the first three batters he faced, including a two-run double that gave the Oakland Athletics their final runs in a 3-2 victory over the Angels.

Blanton rebounded to retire seven of the final eight batters he faced. In all, he pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up two runs, three hits and one walk. He struck out two.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Blanton “missed some spots” to those first three batters –- singles by Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson followed by a double by Yoenis Cespedes. But Scioscia called the entirety of the outing “a step forward for him,” citing the addition of some deception in Blanton’s delivery.

“He’s hiding the ball a little better,” Scioscia said. “He’s working hard to get back to where he needs to be.”

Blanton, 33, has pitched almost exclusively as a starter since 2005, his first full season in the majors. Scioscia has said the Angels might not carry a long reliever, so Blanton might not make the team if he cannot crack the starting rotation.

Blanton went 2-14 with a 6.04 earned-run average last season, his first with the Angels. They owe him $8.5 million -- $7.5 million in salary this year, plus $1 million to buy out his option next year.

Starter Hector Santiago, making his Angels debut, gave up one unearned run and one hit in 2 2/3 innings.

The Angels scored their runs in the eighth inning, on a ground ball by Efren Navarro and a double by Grant Green.

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