Blanton pitches 2 1/3 innings with increased deception

Blanton pitches 2 1/3 innings with increased deception

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Joe Blanton's wide-ranging mechanical tweaks over the offseason and into the spring have centered mostly on re-establishing his deception, which is why Mike Scioscia called a rough first outing on Sunday "a step forward" nonetheless.

"It looked like he had better deception," Scioscia said. "It looked like the ball was down, and definitely his fastball-changeup combo was in play."

Blanton, with $8.5 million left on his contract and an uncertain future with the team, gave up a single to Jed Lowrie, a single to Josh Donaldson and a two-run double to Yoenis Cespedes to start his outing in the fifth. But the 33-year-old right-hander retired seven of the next eight batters he faced, walking one and striking out two to finish on a positive note.

Blanton is focusing on once again rocking back in his delivery, which makes it tougher for hitters to pick up the ball from his hand, and Scioscia is at least seeing that come into play.

"You can see him staying closed a little longer and I think he's hiding the ball a little bit better," Scioscia said. "He's working hard to get back to where he can be."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.