SURPRISE, Ariz. — The Giants didn’t get a single pinch-hit homer from a right-handed hitter last season, so Bruce Bochy had to perk up a bit when Kyle Blanks blasted a two-run homer at Surprise Stadium on Monday afternoon.
The homer was the second of the spring for Blanks, a veteran power hitter trying to make the Opening Day roster as a bench bat. Blanks, 29, has played seven big league seasons, most recently with the Texas Rangers. He has two homers in the first week of Cactus League action but said he’s not worried about the roster math. He just comes in every morning and tries to get as close to 100 percent healthy as he can. He knows he won't get all the way there.
“My medical history is like a book,” Blanks said. “I just literally try to feel as good as I can every day and go out and put my best foot forward.”
Blanks’ feet are what have failed him recently. He had problems in both legs last season and had his heels shaved and his bursa sacs removed, this after previously having elbow and labrum injuries. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound first baseman (he is another week or so away from being tested in the outfield) admitted that he needs plenty of treatment and the occasional ice bath after games, but as long as he’s healthy enough to play the Giants will continue to take a long look at rare power.
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“He's throwing out some good at-bats," Bochy said. "That was a nice piece of hitting there in that first inning. He's got power, he's got big power."
Jake Peavy played with Blanks in San Diego and said even the threat of a pinch-hit homer — Blanks has 33 of them in 827 at-bats — can mess with a pitcher. The Giants had a similar player in Michael Morse two years ago.
“When you have guys on your bench who can change the game with one swing, that’s always nice,” Peavy said. “Boch is so good at that, picking his spots with when to use that right guy. There are some very good lefties in our division, and to have him run up there (makes for) an interesting at-bat.”
Peavy thinks that even after all these injury-marred seasons, Blanks will still get pitched tough. He still has a reputation for being a tremendously powerful bat.
“Guys that have that big intimidation and presence that can hit a homer, it’s a different at-bat,” for the pitcher, Peavy said.
Blanks said he chose the Giants because the medical staff gave him faith that he could get healthy enough to make an impact. So far, he hasn’t had any setbacks this spring.
“I know that when I’m healthy I can compete with anyone,” Blanks said. “It’s just a matter of being on the field, and that’s my focus.”
NOTEWORTHY: Denard Span picked up his first hit as a Giant, a double off the wall in right-center … Mac Williamson got drilled on the inside of his right knee but he stayed in the game and later said he felt fine. Williamson had a single to raise his spring average to .455 … Grant Green had two hits and drove in two runs ... Left-hander Ty Black struck out two in two scoreless innings ... Cory Gearrin had another clean day and continues to look like a good fit for the Opening Day roster.
ICYMI: Years ago, Ian Gardeck turned down an eighth-round deal from the White Sox. The next year he went in the 16th round. Gardeck was my feature subject today and he has no regrets. He feels this was the right spot, and with a 100 mph fastball and plus slider, he's expected to move quickly through the system. (Of course, there's apparently a Pavlovic Curse, so Gardeck blew a save opportunity today as the Giants lost 6-5 to the Rangers.)
QUOTABLE: The first trip to Surprise is always a reminder that the Giants have it good — like, really, really good — out in Scottsdale. Bell Road is infamous out here, and it takes just as long to travel eight stop-and-go miles of Bell as it does to go the 30 miles or so on the freeway. So it was no small thing to Peavy that Buster Posey drove out here to catch him, and he appreciated how hard his catcher was pushing from the first pitch.
“It’s nice to have somebody care that much for a spring training game,” Peavy said. “I know it’s praising Buster Posey and you can’t say enough good things, but it needs to be said. This guy makes us all better and it’s appreciated on my end and I know by many others.”