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Phillies well-armed for battle

Roy Halladay leads an impressive Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff.
Roy Halladay leads an impressive Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff.

Even a casual baseball observer would pick Joe Blanton within 10 notes in the Sesame Street song "One of These Things is Not Like the Others" when looking at the Philadelphia Phillies' starting rotation.

It is hard to imagine the Phillies keeping Blanton and his $3 million salary around as the fifth starter - a spot that will be passed over whenever an off-day presents itself for the Phillies. And why wouldn't you pass over Blanton every chance you could when you have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt waiting in the wings?

And while Oswalt may finally be on the downward side of his illustrious career, he still warrants attention. Although the fourth starter for the Phillies, he will likely put up numbers comparable to other teams' aces. Although only 13-13 last year, splitting his time with the Houston Astros and Phillies, Oswalt still posted a stellar 2.76 earned run average, good for fifth in the National League. Plus, in that environment with the other mound masters that don't need the spotlight either, look for Oswalt to thrive.

Halladay and Lee are as tough of competitors as you will find. The driven Halladay is one of the hardest workers - at the Phillies' spring training complex by 4:50 a.m. most days and out running before dawn.

Lee is a gritty performer who will battle any line-up regardless of whether he has his best stuff that day or not.

Hamels was once the Phillies' singular sensation on the mound; now he gets plenty of veteran help and guidance. Hamels is just .500 in the two years since his 2008 postseason glory when he captured both the World Series and the National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player honors. His 22-22 mark in the past two regular season and his 2-3 record in the postseason those two years is cause for concern, but being around the three other aces should have a calming effect on the 27-year-old who no longer must carry the weight of the entire city of Philadelphia when he makes his way to the mound.

Blanton may not be long for the Phillies' rotation, with his salary and a 4.82 ERA last season. However, his 9-6 record and 134 strikeouts show there is some grit and talent in the 30-year-old hurler and should be able to get the Phillies some value in return should they look to trade Blanton. But in the hallowed company of the Phearsome Foursome, Blanton just doesn't belong.


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