Blanton ahead of schedule

Thus far, there have been no red flags in Joe Blanton's recovery from a strained oblique. The veteran righthander played catch today, one day earlier than the Phillies had initially hoped, throwing 60 balls from 60 feet at between 60 and 75 percent effort. Blanton, who strained the muscle in a bullpen session in Clearwater last Wednesday, also ran for the first time.

"I didn't feel anything on any of the throws," Blanton said. "I didn't feel anything running."

It is still far too early to forecast when Blanton might return to the line-up. He is eligible to be activated from the disabled list on April 10, but even the most conservative estimate offered by the Phillies has him missing three weeks. Blanton injured the oblique on March 31. Three weeks from that day is April 21. Six weeks from that day -- the maximum the Phillies said he is in danger of missing -- is May 12. Although today went well, he is only just beginning his rehab.

"I was optimistic today," Blanton said, "so hopefully it keeps progressing."