Who is behind the plate? …
Greetings from PETCO Park where some of us are gathered for the first true day game of the season, a 12:35 p.m. start against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Today, against the left-handed pitcher, manager Bud Black has Scott Hairston hitting out of the leadoff spot David Eckstein hitting second. Edgar Gonzalez gets his first start of the season at third base. He’s there to get him some playing time and because Kevin Kouzmanoff has a sore hamstring.
And behind the plate? Well, today is Nick Hundley but tomorrow it could easily be newcomer Henry Blanco. Black has had a different catcher each of the first four games of the season. It’s Blanco one day, Hundley the next. Don’t look for that to change.
“If you think back to last year, you had Bard and Barrett … they were two guys who felt they could play every day. You can draw some comparisons to those guys. I think that it might benefit Nick to step back and watch,” Black said. “It might be best that they share time.”
So there you have it. I don’t think this will be a true job-sharing sitiuation. Not by any means. I think Hundley, when it’s all said and done, will get the majority of starts. But, to be clear, this doesn’t mean Blanco starts every Sunday or day games after night games and little else.
I think this tandem is a big upgrade over what the team had a year ago in Josh Bard and Michael Barrett, two players who spent more time on the disabled list than on the field and, health aside, just weren’t very good, offensively or defensively.
Hundley had a 23.1 percent caught stealing rate a year ago (13 of 42) while Barrett and Bard combined for 14 in 96 attempts. This spring alone, and yes, I realize it’s spring, Blanco threw out 3 of 5 would-be base stealers while Hundley nabbed 4 of 11.
Offensively, I like Hundley’s upside. He’s worked with new hitting coach Jim Lefebvre on his “violent load” where he would gear up for his swing with a big-time weight load. This spring, Hundley’s approach is better and he has a much quicker path to the ball.
Blanco has shown a live bat as well with some pop. I’m not too worried about him at the plate at all. And, perhaps best of all, Blanco comes with a reputation of being a teacher and I’m sure Hundley has already gathered things from Blanco. I expect that learning curve to continue.
Hundley will be better off for having Blanco around. The Padres will be better off for having the two of them around.