Blanton headed to DL

Joe Blanton will be out three to six weeks with a mild oblique strain. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Joe Blanton will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a mild oblique strain that will need between three to six weeks to heal, Phillies team physician Michael Ciccotti said.

Blanton injured his left oblique muscle during a bullpen session on Wednesday. He met with doctors this morning and the diagnosis was made.

It is the first time in Blanton's six-year career that he will need to go on the disabled list.

His injury further complicates an already murky pitching situation for the Phillies headed into the season. Presumably this means Kyle Kendrick, who had lost the fifth starter's job to Jamie Moyer, will slide into Blanton's spot in the starting rotation. Kendrick was going to pitch out of the bullpen.

Ciccotti said the plan is to have Blanton travel north with the team and throw for the first time as early as a week from today, April 8. If Blanton responds well to rest and anti-inflammatory medication, he will long toss that day.

Blanton's last outing was a minor-league game on Monday in which he allowed 11 runs in five innings. Ciccotti said Blanton had shown no symptoms of the injury until Wednesday.

Ciccotti said Blanton's oblique strain is less severe than the one that kept former Phillies reliever Clay Condrey out of action for over two months last season. Condrey missed a month with the injury, then came back and pitched in three games before reinjuring the muscle.

Ciccotti said the injury is one that will not return if treated correctly.

"If you treat it carefully initially, then you can actually minimize the risk of recurrence," Ciccotti said.

What does this mean for the rotation? The guess here is that Kendrick will be slotted into Blanton's spot in the rotation, meaning he makes his first start Thursday in Washington against the Nationals. That will at least keep J.A. Happ and Jamie Moyer on their current schedules.

Moyer starts in today's Grapefruit League finale against Pittsburgh.

The other question is this: What happens now to the bullpen? Kendrick was probably going to be more than a long man to start considering the injuries to Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero had already left the bullpen thin -- and few of the middle relief candidates have been impressive this spring.

Now the Phillies have another spot to fill. Does it come from within the organization? I'm not so sure it does. Of all the relievers sent down in the last few weeks, none appeared ready for a major-league job. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has been paying close attention to the waiver wire already during the past few weeks and the Phillies will likely add another bullpen arm before the season begins on Monday.