Blanks heading to Minors, for now
Padres may not be without impressive slugger too long
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Soon enough, the Padres will send their top hitter from the spring to Minor League camp, though from the looks of it, Kyle Blanks might not be there for very long.Blanks will start the season with Triple-A Portland, though under different circumstances -- say, if there wasn't an All-Star and Gold Glove winner already playing first base with the Padres -- he would merit consideration for the Opening Day roster.
Consider the evidence: Entering Monday's game against the Indians, the 22-year-old led the Padres in hits (21) and home runs (four) this spring to go along with a .333 average.But with Gonzalez entrenched at first base, Blanks will be sent to Minor League camp in a few days as the Padres 25-man roster for the Major League season is set. He's fine with this, mostly because he knows he performed well this spring. Very well, in fact, according to general manager Kevin Towers, who said recently that Blanks has been "the highlight of the spring." While Gonzalez is blocking Blanks, the All-Star actually did Blanks a favor this spring by playing in the World Baseball Classic for Mexico. That gave Blanks a chance to play just about every day. Manager Bud Black even quipped that Blanks was the "Iron Man ... the Cal Ripken of Spring Training." "It was good to play every day and to come in and feel good," Blanks said. "It's the best I've felt hitting in Spring Training, right off the bat. It was nice to apply that every day in the game. It felt good to feel good every day. "I got to see the best pitching that was out there. I hit right there with everybody. I do still have things to work on, but, overall, it was a good experience." Blanks, the Padres' Minor League Player of the Year, has a .434 on-base percentage and has taken 10 walks. He's also slugging at a .619 clip. Blanks has made three errors in 26 games but has shown good footwork around the bag and a strong arm. "He's forcing our hand with the way he's playing," said Towers, who likes that Blanks has done a majority of his damage against frontline starters, not Minor Leaguers. "If he keeps it up, we're going to have to find a spot for him." Could that be the outfield? Towers said recently that Blanks might start taking fly balls in the outfield before games in Portland this season but a move isn't planned to help get him to the Major League level sooner. Blanks, who is 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, said he's amenable to such a move, especially if it helps him reach San Diego sooner than later. "I'm not uncomfortable out there. ... It's that I haven't been out there in a while," Blanks said. "In terms of what I think of, it's another spot I can play and it may be helpful to me or the team and possibly get me there faster." Anywhere, he said, but catcher. "That's a little beyond me," Blanks said, smiling. "I'll catch a bullpen if they really need it. But other than that ... no."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.