It’s all about first base, right? Maybe for the Aubrey Huff haters, the #FreeBrandonBelt crowd or Brett Pill’s immediate family, but since I arrived in Arizona on Monday that subject has hardly been broached. Instead, based on how players are playing (that’s what they do, just ask Katt Williams), the roster questions have centered on two lesser-known players.
Gregor Blanco is playing at a different speed than anyone else, and even though the games don’t count that actually means something when a guy’s playing for his livelihood. Pressure doesn’t exist for Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain or even Buster Posey, because they’re all as gold-flecked as those uniforms the Giants wore last April. But Blanco’s guaranteed nothing. In response, he’s stealing bases, slapping singles and taking extra bases.
In the first inning, the Giants scored the kind of small-ball run they could only dream of after August, 2011. Blanco walked to start things off. Then he broke for second (could’ve been a hit-and-run, but it looked like a straight steal) as Melky Cabrera hit a weak ground ball to the right side. As the Cleveland Indians were consumed with tapping a foot on first base, Blanco kept running to third and got there without a throw. He then scored a minute later on a Pablo Sandoval grounder to short to tie the game 1-1. After the game, Bochy said the “little things” Blanco does can “get contagious.”
Blanco’s speed is different than Andres Torres’ speed. Torres looks a track star, but Blanco’s speed is even more effortless, if that makes sense. His hands aren’t slicing through the air like Torres’, but he still seems faster. If Blanco isn’t on the final roster, it’s either because he got hurt between now and April 6 or he fell into an unfortunate slump between now and then. Here’s what Bruce Bochy had to say about him.
(Key point: when John Shea proposed that Blanco would be a perfect fourth outfielder, Bochy said he could be a “great starter, too.”)
The other player who’s taken up a lot of talk-time in Bochy’s postgame sessions is Hector Sanchez. Everyone reading this site probably realizes why Sanchez should make the roster. Buster Posey can’t play catcher every day, the offense is the team’s main weakness, and Sanchez is a FAR better hitter than either Chris Stewart or Eli Whiteside (who still can’t throw to second base, at least based off the throw he bounced past second and into centerfield on Monday).
Matt Cain spoke highly of Sanchez’s game-calling after throwing to him on Wednesday.
“I don’t know if (he) was maybe timid to call different pitches here and there, but I think now he’s got the confidence to take some chances on throwing pitches in or throwing changeups behind in the count, or throwing different pitches. I think he’s got that confidence,” Cain said. “Because I think he relays that confidence from maybe the pitching staff and the way that all the guys are not afraid to throw any pitch really in any count.”
I asked Bochy about Cain’s comments, and he said, “The kid’s got a lot of confidence. He can hit, he can catch and throw. It’s just a matter of getting some time up here to where he does feel like he belongs and carries himself like that.”
Spring Training: for the fans, it’s very relaxed
— This is my first Spring Training, and now I can’t imagine another March where I don’t go to Arizona. I’m not trying to help the Giants sell tickets by any means (they need absolutely no help in that area, since Scottsdale Stadium was packed on both Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons), but the combination of fresh, optimistic baseball, warm temperatures and friendly people wherever you go is too strong to resist.
— I haven’t partaken since I’ve been in press boxes and clubhouses, but the drinking scene during Spring Training games is unbelievable. The ratio of beer vendors to fans is like the teacher/student ratio at a small liberal arts college. Everywhere you walk, you can get “bombers” (24 oz cans of beer or hard lemonade) or margaritas. I walked around the perimeter of Scottsdale Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday, and it seems like everyone was holding a giant can.
— Also, walking beer vendors are ubiquitous. For Californians (who for some reason are deprived from such luxuries), this is truly a novelty.
— Not to sound sexist, but I haven’t seen this many women drinking tall cans of cerveza since that time I was given free tickets to the NASCAR race at Infineon.
— I walked into the clubhouse before Wednesday’s game, and at a circular table sat Joe Garagiola and Willie Mays. The highlight: Garagiola and Mays arguing about who’s been around longer. Garagiola said, “Eighty-freaking-six,” as he grabbed Mays’ arm. Mays’ reply: “I’m 80.”
— It seems like everyone is drawn to Scottsdale Stadium. Before the game Peter Gammons and Brian Sabean were chatting, with Gammons pretending he didn’t notice people yelling “Hey Peter!” from the stands.
— Always around whenever baseball luminaries are conversing: Marty Lurie. Dude’s everywhere.
— Pat Burrell was in the press box and the clubhouse. For a guy who was only around for about 18 months or so, he sure wants to be a lifetime Giant.
— Randy Winn’s hanging around, too. You know your organization’s strong when everyone wants to come back and hang out.
— If you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what Pablo Sandoval’s walkup music’s going to be, in Scottsdale he’s stepping into the box to Big Sean’s “Dance (A$$).”
— The first game I attended was in Surprise, when the Giants played the Royals. Nate Schierholtz left the game around the 4th or 5th inning, and as he walked through the aisle behind home plate to the visiting clubhouse with a large duffel bag on his shoulder, a little boy (5-years-old?) held out a ball and pleaded for Schierholtz to sign. Schierholtz didn’t sign. Instead, he opened up his bag, grabbed a bat and handed it to the kid, who had absolutely no idea how to react. “Do I get the autograph too? Wait, I have a bat? I HAVE A BAT!!!!”