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Joe Blanton prepared to make daring return to game that destroyed him

The man's in great shape and has some expectations.

(David Maialetti/Philadelphia Daily News)

You can't deny that Joe Blanton was a part of the Phillies' iconic 2011 pitching rotation. You can't.

Some would argue that only making eight starts, compiling an ERA over 5.00, and then missing the rest of the season due to nerve damage in his elbow would take something away from his year. But if you tried to say that Blanton wasn't apart of that rotation, you're dead wrong. Because he was. For like a month.

The press had giggled and farted about how he was the dopey fifth member of a stacked All-Star set, pointing out that he's a bit hefty, and forgetting that he has a World Series ring. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt all made sure he was a part of their press tour that off-season anyway, refusing to let there be a forgotten member of the team. Part of me wanted to see him post better numbers than any of them in what would have been admittedly a fluke of a thing. But at least then reporters could stop awkwardly bumbling through conversation starters like "Hey wouldn't 'Fat Joe and the Terror Squad' be a fun name for this rotation; oh wait is calling someone 'fat' to their face still pretty rude?"

Blanton was an afterthought trade in 2012, sent to California after Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence had gone before him. He brought back a prospect named Ryan O'Sullivan, who made 12 starts for Reading this past year, logging a 3.91 ERA. He walks a lot of people.

Meanwhile, Blanton's 57 innings of 10.3 H/9 pitching earned him a two-year, $15 million deal from the crosstown Angels. He made 28 starts and helped ruin the Angels' 2013 season with a 6.04 ERA campaign.

The A's, the team that drafted him, reached out, and Blanton twirled a pair of starts for their Triple-A squad, but in the end, determined that he'd had enough.

Until now.

LAUGH, you cretins. Have a few chuckles at the expense of a 34-year-old back of the rotation guy, forever spurned just because his stats looked even worst next to one of the best rotations ever assembled. But Blanton's not laughing. He's been working out with Zach Duke, who lives nearby Joe in Nashville.

Also, he was spurned because his numbers weren't always that good compared to other pitchers. Mediocre-at-best, some might say. And that's okay. A pitcher who is decent at his job is still better than the reporter trying to call him fat for a funny headline.

So if you've got anything you want to say to Joe Blanton, say it to his face at spring training.