Blanco impresses at Giants camp

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Blanco impresses at Giants camp

Pablo Sandoval gave Gregor Blanco the nickname "Tiburon Blanco." Not necessarily because the outfielder played for the Tiburones in winter league. It is because Blanco attacks the game just as a Great White Shark does its prey.

"Being aggressive," Blanco cited as his playing style, "Be aggressive in all my positions, hitting-wise, defensively, running the bases. I think thats a really big part of my game."

It's a game that has more than impressed the Giants coaching staff and will likely earn the 28-year-old a spot on the opening day roster. Blanco can play all three outfield positions and has a presence at the plate as well.

"He can work the counts," first base coach Roberto Kelly said. "He can get the walks, he can get the hits. Once he gets on base he can steal the base and in the outfield he can run down a lot of balls and he has a good arm so he can play every facet of the game."

Blanco leads the Giants in hits, walks and stolen bases this spring. Its without a doubt the best spring of his career, but not one he is taking for granted. He spent the 2011 season in the minors and missed the last month with a wrist injury.

"I said to myself just to prove to yourself you can do it," Blanco said. "That you can deserve to be a big league player.

"The years before, I had my tools, but I never showed it. But now I say to myself, this is the big leaguer I want to be."

"This is his season," Kelly added. "Come ready, show everything hes got in order to show people what he can do and obviously hes done a great job of it on both sides of the field."

The coaches aren't the only ones taking notice.

"Even here," said Blanco. "People scream my name and its spring training and Im really enjoying that. I think that's really big that a team has fans like the Giants."

And soon they will all like the "Tiburon Blanco" as well.

Giants spring training Day 16: Rollins IDs similarities between Kershaw, Bumgarner

Giants spring training Day 16: Rollins IDs similarities between Kershaw, Bumgarner

PEORIA, Ariz. — Two years ago, Jimmy Rollins spent a season playing shortstop behind Clayton Kershaw. On Tuesday, he lined up behind Madison Bumgarner. 

Rollins is one of the few big leaguers who has shared a clubhouse with the two left-handed aces, so during a recent interview, I asked him to compare Kershaw and Bumgarner. One trait stood out. 

“When it’s game day, (Kershaw) is all on,” Rollins said. “It’s intense, it’s his job, it’s his game, it’s his mound — almost a ‘Don’t get a reliever up’ type of mentality. Playing against MadBum, it was the same thing. When he took the mound he expected himself to go nine. ‘I’m not turning the ball over,’ and when he did, it’s like, ‘Alright, I get it.’ Not willingly, but more reluctantly.”

Rollins was the everyday shortstop for the Dodgers in 2015. Two years later, he’s trying to secure a much different role. Rollins, 38, is in the mix to win a utility infielder job, and he’s off to a decent start. He has had good at-bats over the first week and on Tuesday he showed the arm is still there on a relay throw from center. The Giants will move him around quite a bit this spring, with second base likely to be the biggest challenge for a player who has spent most his life standing at shortstop. Manager Bruce Bochy said Rollins will start at second on Thursday. 

Rollins hopes he has many more days behind Bumgarner. He certainly has had more than enough time against him. Rollins is 7-for-32 against Bumgarner, with no extra-base hits or walks, and 10 strikeouts. 

“I swung at a two-strike pitch that Madison threw in L.A. and I was like, you know what, I’m going to take a shot at a fastball,” Rollins said. “He threw a curveball and the ball bounced two feet in front of the plate and I’m just swinging like I’m trying to hit a home run. He stuck me out. ‘Alright, well. I gave it a shot and that didn’t work out. Don’t ever do that again.’ Sometimes you have those matchups that you can’t figure a guy and he was that for me. 

“He has a lot of deception with his move, stepping over, sideways-slinging, but he has good control. He can backdoor a curveball when he wants to. He can cross-fire and bag you up.”

Rollins talked much more about facing the Giants and Bumgarner during the interview, which aired on my podcast today. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

GAME RECAP: Bumgarner had a seven-pitch first inning but gave up two runs in the second. He got his work in, as they say … Mark Melancon made his second appearance of the spring. It’s six up, six down so far … Josh Osich had another wild outing, walking two and giving up an RBI single … Chris Marrero, who hit a walk-off in the opener, scorched a two-run single off the wall in dead center. He was held to just a single because he tripped rounding first. Still, another good display of his power.

PROSPECT WATCH: Ray Black, the 100 mph man, walked one and struck out one in his debut. He sat 95-96 mph with a good slider. "It's good to see him healthy," Bochy said. "He's made some good adjustments. He's feeling good. Knock on wood, he stays healthy. That's a big arm. You'd like to see him healthy all year and let him take the next step."

FAMILIAR FACE: Hector Sanchez pinch-hit for the Padres in the seventh and drew a walk. Sanchez remains El Iman, The Magnet. He has already missed time this spring because of two separate foul tips. For more on former Giants, here’s a look at all the familiar names in other camps as non-roster invitees. 

STOCK RISING: It can’t hurt Gordon Beckham’s cause that he did a decent job in a surprise start in left field. Beckham caught two liners but got turned around by a ball to the track in the second inning. He’s trying to make this team as a utility infielder/outstanding clubhouse guy, and Bochy said he'll mix him in as a left fielder.

“He’s a good guy to have on the team,” Bumgarner said, before joking: “A talented player, too … except for today when he couldn’t throw the ball home or catch the ball.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Will Smith played catch for the second straight day. It looked like a normal game of catch, which is good.

QUOTABLE: "He came in and said, 'Wow, I got a 1-2-3 inning in spring training. I think that's the first 1-2-3 inning I've had in five years here.'" -- Bochy on what Bumgarner said to him after a quick first.

 

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants do not expect Christian Arroyo, their top hitting prospect, to get a lot of at-bats in a camp filled with veteran infielders. But the 21-year-old continues to make the most of every opportunity he gets. 

Arroyo hit a scorching single to left in his first at-bat Monday. When he came up with the bases loaded in the seventh, he poked a single into right, tying the game. Arroyo grounded out in his final at-bat, ending his perfect run this spring. With three hits in his first four at-bats down here, Arroyo is now 17-for-30 in three springs in big league camp.

“It’s the same (thing) he did last spring,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s getting great at-bats and playing well at shortstop. In the early go here, he’s playing the kind of ball that he was last spring. His mechanics are very solid. It’s a good foundation, good balance, and he doesn’t try to do too much. The bat stays in the zone a long time and he uses the whole field well. He’s a good hitter. He’s only going to hit for more power. The power is going to come, too.”

A move to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League should help. No matter what Arroyo does this spring, the Giants will send him to Triple-A if their 40-man guys are healthy. But Arroyo’s time is coming, and it’s coming soon. 

For more on Arroyo, here’s a feature I wrote about him last week. Here’s more from the first day of the third week of spring training … 

GAME RECAP: The Giants will not go undefeated this season. They lost to the A’s for the 124th consecutive time in the Cactus League, this time by a score of 5-4 … Michael Morse got the first hit of his comeback attempt. His pinch-hit single up the middle in the seventh drove in a run. In the eighth, he lined a two-strike single to right … Brandon Belt hit his first homer of the spring. It was the 24th of his spring training career. You can see it here … Bochy was impressed with Jose Dominguez, who struck out one in a scoreless inning. 

STOCK WATCH: Orlando Calixte played right field, after previously seeing time at short and second this spring. “He’s intriguing,” Bochy said. “He showed the arm off in right field. He’s a good shortstop and plays second and third. He’s a good athlete.” The Giants plan to carry five outfielders, but if none of the right-handed bats break through, they could always carry Calixte as a super-utility guy. Remember, he’s on the 40-man roster. 

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace still is not in big league camp, or on the way. Here’s the latest on Johnny Cueto. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: This room now belongs to Anthony Reyes, as Dave Groeschner is off to South Korea with Hensley Meulens and Team Netherlands. Will Smith (elbow) threw off flat ground and everything went fine. Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) will likely resume playing third base later this week.

QUOTABLE: “To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.” — Jeff Samardzija on a pitch that helped him dominate in September. Here’s more on Samardzija and his plans for 2017.