TEMPE, Ariz. -- Maybe all Joe Blanton needed to do was move to the other end of a 24-inch pitching rubber.
That, at least, was the explanation for his drastic turnaround against the Rangers on Wednesday.
Blanton moved from the first-base side of the rubber to the third-base side while starting for the Angels' split-squad team in Surprise, Ariz., and was brilliant against a Texas lineup that featured up to five regulars (Shin-Soo Choo, Jurickson Profar, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland).
Five days after giving up seven runs -- on four homers -- in 3 1/3 innings against the Rockies, Blanton tossed five one-hit innings against the Angels' division rivals, striking out five and walking none.
Working from the third-base side, which pitching coach Mike Butcher has been working with him on this week, gives Blanton "a chance to create angles both to lefties and righties, especially with his fastball to be able to get it cross-corner and down, or in, to a lefty," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Also with his breaking ball, whether it's getting it under a lefty's swing or he's trying to create more angle to a righty. He created good angles. They had some good hitters there, and he looked good."
It's only Spring Training, and Blanton, owed $8.5 million on his contract, still seems unlikely to beat out 22-year-old lefty Tyler Skaggs for the fifth spot in the rotation. But any progress out of Blanton, who lost 14 games and posted a 6.04 ERA last season, can only be good for the Angels, who at the very least could find a needy team willing to take on some of his salary in a late Spring Training trade.
The big test will be how he carries that into his next outing, when he starts the Angels' third and final split squad of the spring on Monday.
"His execution was much better yesterday for the fact that he had a little different perspective, which plays to his stuff better," Scioscia said. "It's not a huge adjustment; it's really a simple one. But I think the results yesterday were very visible."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and 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.