Healthy Blanks ready to prove worth to Padres
Once-promising prospect returns to camp after four injury-riddled seasons
PEORIA, Ariz. -- No longer does Kyle Blanks worry about whether people have forgotten about him -- in particular, the Padres organization and its fan base.
In fact, the Padres left fielder/first baseman understands why he might have fallen off the radar of many fans, as he's been saddled by various injuries since he reached the big leagues in 2009.
"When you're hurt, people think you're gone," Blanks said.
The fact is the 26-year-old Blanks is not just right here in big league camp, but he's completely healthy after missing most of last season with a torn left labrum and the subsequent surgery in April. He showed it Tuesday, when he hit an RBI single and walked in the Padres' 7-5 win against the Reds.
Injuries have slowed Blanks since he broke into the Major Leagues as a 22-year-old in 2009, leaving him with 425 at-bats to show for parts of four seasons.
Blanks suffered a partial tear in his right foot during his rookie season that sidelined him. One year later, he needed Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Then, Blanks suffered a torn left labrum in April 2012 that ended his season almost before it began.
No longer, though, does Blanks feel bad for himself. Those days are long gone, he said Tuesday. That's a losing proposition.
"I'm not happy that everything has happened the way it's happened," Blanks said. "I think it's always a lot easier to look at the bad things that have happened. But I'm shifting my views to look at the good. If I go 0-for-4, I'll look at what did I do well that day"
"There's always going to be a laundry list of things you didn't do right. It's a lot harder to look for the good in the heat of the moment. I've really been working on that. It's one of those things that allows you to sleep [better] at night, focusing on the good. That's been my biggest adjustment."
When Blanks has been healthy, he's achieved some notable things for the Padres:
• After initially struggling as a rookie in 2009, Blanks hit 10 home runs in his final 98 at-bats of the season, including a memorable inside-the-park home run at Petco Park against the Cubs.
• In the home opener against the Braves in 2011, Blanks had three hits, a home run and five RBIs in a 17-2 rout at Petco Park.
• After returning from Tommy John surgery, Blanks went on a tear at the plate in August 2011. He hit seven home runs and knocked in 21 runs that month.
• Blanks has 93 hits over parts of his first four seasons in the big leagues, and nearly half of them (44) have gone for extra-bases -- 22 doubles, two triples and 20 home runs.
"We've seen some very good things out of Kyle," said Padres manager Bud Black. "Hopefully now he can continue to be the player we want him to be, the player he thinks he can be. There's talent in there. He can run, throws well, has good hands, and you look at the Minor League numbers, it's there.
"Now we've got to make it happen in the big leagues."
Following his labrum surgery in April, Blanks was finally cleared to hit in August. Looking to make up for lost time, he left in November for the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League, where he played in 18 games for Gigantes de Carolina. Blanks hit .286 with two home runs and nine RBIs.
"The thing that was a pleasant surprise to me was I didn't feel like I missed much," Blanks said. "After the first two games, I was perfectly comfortable and ready to go. Every year, it seems, there's always that adjustment period where you need to get that feel for baseball back. Not this year."
Blanks, who has four hits in his first seven at-bats this spring, is hoping to make the team as an extra outfielder, though he can play first base, as well. In fact, it's his natural position. He's ready to move away from his injured past and make a mark for himself while in Arizona.
And if people have forgotten about him?
"Quite honestly, I don't really care," he said. "If I'm not on the field, I can't do anything about it. All I can do is work hard to get back on the field."