October 31, 2009 in Sports

Make room for ex-roomies

Blanton, Swisher, Gaudin dreamed of being in Series
Andy Martino Philadelphia Inquirer
 
Associated Press photo

Joe Blanton will start Game 4 of the World Series for the Phillies on Sunday after Charlie Manuel decided he would not put Cliff Lee on the mound on three days’ rest.
(Full-size photo)

COMING UP

Game 3: N.Y. Yankees at Philadelphia, 4:57 p.m. TV: Fox 28 Radio: 700-AM

PHILADELPHIA – 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, Calif., 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 backyard bull sessions involved Blanton, Gaudin and Swisher. When Phillies manager Charlie Manuel announced Friday 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 on 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 have Lee start three times in the series and all but 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.”

Manuel did not seriously consider J.A. Happ for the start, because he wanted the left-hander available from the bullpen.

That combination of factors resulted in Blanton’s receiving 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 his 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.”

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