MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Going 16 days between starts provided a natural excuse for Joe Blanton's general ineffectiveness in Monday's 6-4 Phillies win. Those 16 days also created some confusion.
After the game, Blanton said he felt "OK" in his first start since being activated from the disabled list with a sore right elbow. Asked a few times if he experienced any soreness after the game, Blanton refused to say he did.
A day later, manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee acknowledged that Blanton wasn't 100 percent in his five-inning outing.
"Joe had some soreness," Manuel said. "He definitely wasn't as sharp as he wanted to be. Whether it's natural or not, I don't know."
Neither Manuel nor Dubee could say if Blanton's next scheduled start - Saturday in Atlanta - is in danger.
The Phillies decided Blanton did not require a minor-league rehab start even though he hadn't pitched since April 23. Because of that long layoff from competitive baseball, the team is unsure if Blanton's soreness Monday was a result of rust or continued symptoms of the elbow problem.
"I don't know," Manuel said. "Man, we're getting way ahead of ourselves. I'm damn sure not that smart. You never know who's going to pitch."
Blanton has a bullpen session scheduled for Wednesday, and the Phillies will know more then. Dubee said he was optimistic.
"I don't have any reason not to be," the pitching coach said.
The red flag stems from Blanton's decreased velocity. The righthander previously said he pitched through the elbow problem in his first four starts of 2011. His velocity Monday was just about the same as it was April 23, which is not exactly encouraging.
In 2010, Blanton's sinker averaged 89.4 m.p.h. On Monday, he threw his sinker at an average velocity of 87.6 m.p.h.
Oswalt, Ruiz in Clearwater. Bright House Field will be the place to be Thursday. Both Roy Oswalt (back) and Carlos Ruiz (back) will play for the single-A Clearwater Threshers in rehab starts. And Chase Utley (knee tendinitis) could also be in the lineup after beginning his rehab stint on Tuesday.
Oswalt has a 75-pitch limit for Thursday's start. The Phillies hope he will return to the rotation Tuesday in St. Louis. He has not pitched since April 26.
"My back feels great," Oswalt said. "I'm a little rusty, though. I can't spot my fastball and I don't have any breaking ball. Other than that I'm in pretty good shape."
The team believes Ruiz could return when eligible Friday in Atlanta.