Phillies sticking with Joe Blanton for Game 4 start … for now

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With the NLCS tied 1-1 following Roy Oswalt’s gem last night the Phillies are still planning to start Joe Blanton in Game 4 of the series Wednesday.

However, there’s plenty of speculation that Charlie Manuel would instead turn to Roy Halladay on short rest for Game 4 if the Phillies are down 2-1 and the manager did nothing to rule that out yesterday, saying: “We’ll just take it day to day and see what happens.”

Asked if bringing back Halladay on short rest was an option being considered, pitching coach Rich Dubee replied: “We haven’t talked about it yet.” Obviously the Phillies have “talked about it” and the attempts to avoid the topic seemingly make it clear that Blanton’s chances of starting Game 4 with the team down in the series are pretty weak.

It’ll be a moot point if Cole Hamels beats Matt Cain tomorrow, so Manuel and Dubee are smart not to delve into the issue unless they need to, but in this case the non-answers are almost as informative as answers. Blanton hasn’t started a game since September 29, but he pitched very well down the stretch and by moving Halladay up to Game 4 the Phillies would have to move Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels up as well, which would result in the final four games of the series all being started by pitchers on short rest.

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.