Padres' catchers to share time for now
Hundley, Blanco offer reliable tandem over long season
SAN DIEGO -- While it's safe to assume Nick Hundley is the Padres' catcher of the future -- and, obviously, the present -- that does not mean 38-year-old Henry Blanco will become a wallflower on the dugout bench.
"I think Nick is going to be a fine big league catcher," Padres manager Bud Black said recently. "But I don't think Nick is going to catch 150 games."
Enter Blanco, who was signed in the offseason to serve as the backup for Hundley. But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming an occasionally used catcher.
Blanco played well in Spring Training, for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic and not only met but exceeded the expectations of the staff. He earned the trust of pitchers in camp and already has developed a good relationship with Jake Peavy.
Now it appears that Hundley and Blanco will share playing time to some extent, though Hundley, 25, figures to get more playing time over the haul of a 162-game season.
Either way, it's a nice situation to have for the Padres, who didn't get much offensively or defensively from the oft-injured tandem of Michael Barrett and Josh Bard a year ago.
"If you think back to last year, you had Bard and Barrett ... they were two guys who felt they could play every day," Black said. "You can draw some comparisons to those guys. I think that it might benefit Nick to step back and watch.
"It might be best that they share time."
Blanco and Hundley have each started two games in the opening week of the season, as Hundley got his second start on Thursday against the Dodgers at PETCO Park.
Blanco is 0-for-5 at the plate but hit .318 in Spring Training and, better still, was able to cut down three of the five would-be basestealers who ran on him.
Hundley, who gained valuable experience with the Padres after joining the team in July, hit .348 in Spring Training and threw out four of 11 would-be basestealers.
Hundley has showed much better offense than he did a year ago, when he hit .236 in 199 at-bats after his promotion from Triple-A Portland. He's worked extensively with first-year hitting coach Jim Lefebvre on his swing and approach.
"I think I feel a lot different in terms of my mental approach," Hundley said. "I think I have gotten to the point where I know myself enough where I can move on from mechanics and doing that stuff. Now I have to maintain it."
What is Hundley doing differently?
"I'm just trying to make my first move to the ball, being shorter which will help give me a little more time," he said. "It's awesome to have Jim around. He sees things you don't see yourself. He explains it in a way you can understand. He's not out there trying to tell you 500 things. He's trying to tell you simple things. He's been a great asset."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.