Sitting in rocking chairs on the back porch, sipping beers, the three friends would talk about it: What if we could all play in the World Series someday?
In the Oakland home they rented together as young teammates on the Athletics, Joe Blanton, Nick Swisher and Chad Gaudin allowed their late-night conversations to wander through many topics. But they often returned to the career goal that Blanton fulfilled last October, and the other two are realizing this month as members of the New York Yankees.
Pitchers Rich Harden and Huston Street also spent time living in the Oakland home, but the majority of back-yard bull sessions involved Blanton, Gaudin and Swisher. When Charlie Manuel announced today that Blanton would start Sunday's Game 4, instead of Cliff Lee on short rest, he set up a possible matchup between close friends. If Yankees manager Joe Girardi chooses not to start CC Sabathia on three days rest Sunday, he will hand the assignment to Gaudin.
"It's pretty cool, when you think about it," Blanton said. "To be young together, and talk about how maybe someday we would be in a World Series, and now here we are."
Manuel passed on the chance to start Lee three times in the series, and essentially named Cole Hamels the potential Game 7 starter. "He hasn't pitched on three days rest," Manuel said of Lee. "I also like him in Game 5 because we've got an off day Tuesday. If it goes seven games or something, that would be on his bullpen day and he might be able to pitch or whatever ... I don't think he's ready for it on three days' rest. That's really pushing him because he's never done it before."
Manuel did not seriously consider J.A. Happ for the start, because he wanted the lefthander the available from the bullpen.
That combination of factors resulted in Blanton receiving a second the second World Series start of his career. Though he lasted six innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in a Game 4 win last year, and bashed an unlikely home run, Blanton did not have the pleasure of competing against friends.
All three former roommates are enjoying this moment, the realization of a dream they shared in Oakland, and before.
"Joe was my first buddy in pro ball," said Swisher, traded from the A's to the Chicago White Sox last year, and from Chicago to New York before this season. "We played in double-A together. Now he's got a ring and I don't have one yet."
Blanton's life has changed the most. In addition to winning the World Series, Blanton is the only one of the three with a family. He and wife LeeAndra welcomed their first child, daughter Adalia, earlier this season.
"He's still the same guy," said the Louisiana-born Gaudin of Blanton, a Kentuckian. "That's probably why we've always gotten along so well. Joe is a country boy who likes country music."
Gaudin's career has taken him to the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Yankees since he left Oakland. Though Blanton and Swisher have drifted from one another, the Phils pitcher and Gaudin remained close. Their contacts is mostly limited to brief text messages, and looking for one another's name on the ESPN crawl. They meet up when they can--Gaudin was still a Padre when the Phils traveled to San Diego this June, and Blanton stayed at his house during that series.
Whether or not they face one another Sunday, each has enjoyed the other's success. "You talk about something like that when you're young, but you don't know if it will happen," Blanton said. "It's definitely a cool thing."
Greg Dobbs' locker at Citizens Bank Park was decorated with caution tape today, covered with cardboard, and adorned with a handwritten sign that read:
"Greg Dobbs update—Thomas Jefferson Hospital, room 906. Visiting for family and friends from 6-8 p.m. Be advised to wear a mask."
That joke injected levity into a situation that was surely not enjoyable for Dobbs. The pinch-hitting specialist left the team before Game 2 with the flu, and was not at the workout today.
"I don't know how he's doing," said general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "I think he's feeling better, I don't know how much better."
Amaro said that he was not yet considering replacing Dobbs on the roster, but might if Dobbs misses another game. He also said that "maybe just one or two" players felt under the weather and "were getting checked out."
Tyler Walker, who is not on the roster, was ill for several days. He rejoined the team today.
Blanton threw about 50 pitches in a bullpen session today, after Manuel informed him he would start.
After Blanton, the likely World Series rotation would be: Lee in Game 5, Pedro Martinez in Game 6, and Cole Hamels in Game 7, with Lee available in the bullpen on short rest.