WASHINGTON — The first three days after Joe Blanton strained his left oblique muscle during a bullpen side session, life was anything but normal. The 29-year-old pitcher had never been on the disabled list before, let alone injured enough to miss a start.
But to make matters worse, whenever Blanton laughed, sneezed or coughed, his side hurt.
“Gradually it got a little bit better,” Blanton said. “I kind of feel somewhat normal.”
He felt good enough to throw 60 times from 60 feet Wednesday before the Phillies’ game against the Nationals. He also ran for the first time since the injury occurred on March 31. He did all of that without any pain, which is leaving Blanton and the Phillies optimistic that his return will be closed to three weeks from the original date rather than six.
“Everything went good,” Blanton said. “It was the first time and I didn’t feel anything, so it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully I can keep taking big steps.”
Blanton’s first start would have been this afternoon against Washington. Instead, Kyle Kendrick will start.
But the righthander could be close to returning to the rotation. Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said Blanton could throw a bullpen session within the next week to 10 days and a rehab game could follow that.
“We’re very encouraged with the way things have progressed,” Proefrock said.
When Blanton was originally diagnosed, team physician Michael Ciccotti termed Blanton’s injury as a “mild” oblique strain. But it’s an injury that can linger if not treated properly from the beginning, so the Phillies will be cautious in monitoring Blanton’s progress.
Still, Blanton is ahead of the original schedule the Phillies had hoped for. When Ciccotti wade his original diagnosis, he said he expected Blanton to throw no earlier than today. He beat that prediction by a day.
“It could have gotten pushed back so things are going pretty well,” Blanton said.
Blanton estimated he threw at about 60 to 70 percent Wednesday. He said he wasn’t trying to push himself too much in the beginning. He could throw again today before taking a day off.
He laughed without pain Wednesday. And he’s planning on making his first stay on the disabled list as short as possible to keep his reputation as a workhorse intact.
“It was a little disheartening,” Blanton said. “I always felt I’m going to be the guy who takes the ball every five days.”