Joe Blanton finally got his start on Tuesday. He long-tossed in the outfield as the Phillies were taking batting practice, then he warmed up in the bullpen, and then he walked to the mound to do something that he really needed to do - pitch to live hitters.

Citizens Bank Park was empty, the game was simulated, and the hitters were the Phillies' regulars taking mostly leisurely swings, but Blanton threw around 60 pitches, even though he doesn't know if the work was playoff preparation or extremely early spring training.

"I have no clue. Zero clue," Blanton said.

He hasn't started a game since Sept. 29 and there is no guarantee he will get a start in the league championship series against the Giants. It would seem reasonable that the Phillies would prefer not to pitch any of the Big Three in the rotation on Big Three-Days' Rest, but necessity is a mother this time of year.

"We have three great guys who can throw the ball. That's obvious," Blanton said. "At this point, you throw everything out the window, being selfish or whatever. It's about winning. Nobody gives a crap about personal preferences this time of year. It's about winning every series and about winning the World Series."

The way the schedule works, Blanton's turn, if he gets one, would arrive in Game 4 in San Francisco. Roy Halladay, who will start the opener, could come back in that game on three-days' rest, and that could happen if the Phillies are trailing in the series. If they are ahead, however, it would probably be Blanton, a move that would let the other starters stay on their regular routines.

If the uncertainty bothers Blanton, he doesn't let it show. A year ago, he pitched out of the bullpen in the short first round, then got one start in each of the league championship series and the World Series. Of course, the rotation then wasn't what it is now. With Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, the drop-off to even an experienced veteran like Blanton is significant.

In the divisional round, with extra days between games, even if the series had gone past three games, the schedule would have allowed the top of the rotation to say on regular rest. Blanton knew he was solely in the bullpen for that series. Because the starters did their jobs, he didn't get into a game.

"[Pitching coach Rich] Dubee told me that they'd need one less starter. That was fine with me. I've been in the bullpen before," Blanton said. "As a competitor, you want to get on the field. But it's been fun to watch those guys go to work. It's pretty impressive, what they're able to do."

This time around, Blanton might be able to make it a foursome, and Tuesday's simulated game was all about helping him get ready for that possibility. Oswalt threw a couple of innings in the workout as well, and Kyle Kendrick also threw an inning.

"We've got a little time to talk about what we're going to do," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We have to decide about the rotation and the roster. I think there's definitely a possibility we might use Joe. I feel comfortable with Joe Blanton. It's something where we'll have to wait and see."

There is a trickle-down effect to the longer, best-of-seven league championship series, and it is Kendrick who might benefit from it, along with Blanton. Manuel indicated he's considering adding an 11th pitcher for this round. With Blanton being a possibility for the rotation, the bullpen spot could open up for Kendrick, and one of the bench players, likely Domonic Brown, would be taken off the 25-man roster.

Based on what he did in the second half of the season, Blanton could make a case for deserving a start. After the all-star break, he was 6-1 in 15 starts and pitched to a 3.33 earned run average over nearly 100 innings. At times, as Halladay and the big boys went through little lulls, Blanton might have been the team's most consistent starter. Not the best on a given night, but the most consistent.

It's been easy to focus on Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels and say how lucky the Phillies have been to put that trio together and have them stay healthy. All true, but they were lucky down the stretch to have Blanton come through as he did, too. He's not mentioning that, because that's just not the way he works.

"Whatever happens, there is always the same intensity, the same desire to win, whether I'm starting or in the bullpen," Blanton said. "It's only about winning."

So, even though Tuesday's pretend game might have been his last start of the year, Blanton isn't complaining. October baseball is full of surprises and he knows he could turn out to be one of them.