From Blanton’s No. 1 fan to long-term replacement?

When most of the Phillies’ young pitchers walk into the clubhouse, they look in awe at aces Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee.

Vance Worley was aware of that core when he was called up in April, but the guy he really wanted to pal around with was Joe Blanton.

In 2004, when Worley was a high school senior in Sacramento, Calif., he would watch Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats. Blanton was a hot prospect, going 11-8 and making the big club the following season.

“I was out there in the stands watching Joe,” Worley said. “I was a fan.”

Worley, 23, who was drafted in June 2008 in the third round of the amateur draft, noticed that the Phillies traded for Blanton the following month.

“I thought that was cool that they added Joe,” Worley said. “He’s such a good pitcher.”

The Mohawk-sporting Worley and Blanton are both big right-handers, each one about 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. But the differences are that Blanton is seven years older and on the DL. The opportunistic Worley jumped into the starting rotation in May, due to Blanton’s elbow injury.

“I’ve been trying to make the most of my chance,” Worley said. “I love being up here.”

Even when Blanton returns, expect Worley to stick around due to Roy Oswalt’s back injury.

And why not?

Worley has impressed in eight starts with a 4-1 record and a 2.20 ERA. He’ll ring in the second half of the season with a start Friday night.

“I love what’s happening,” Worley said. “It’s great pitching on a staff like this. It’s been awesome. I just want to contribute and help this team go as far as it can.”

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