SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The story of spring training in 2011 for the Giants was, without question, Brandon Belt.
Belt had put up great numbers at three minor-league levels in 2010, and swung his way onto the major-league squad by putting up impressive Cactus League numbers. Belt couldn’t hold back tears after being told he had made the big-league club out of camp by manager Bruce Bochy, a scenario that played out in detail on Showtime’s “The Franchise.”
This year, it could be Gregor Blanco in Bochy’s office receiving that same news. Blanco entered Sunday as is the spring training leader in hits (16) and stolen bases (7) for all of baseball.
“He’s really been a pleasant surprise,” said general manager Brian Sabean, who acknowledged that Blanco is likely to make the team and he fits into the club’s new scheme of speed and hitting for average.
The 28-year-old outfielder was a recommended pickup by hitting coach Hensley Meulens and other staff members. Blanco spent the offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he changed his playing style to take advantage of his tools.
“I feel that in my career, I’ve been a good baseball player, but not aggressive ... I think I just realized that if I get on base and I steal second and I get to third, I can put pressure — a positive,” Blanco said. “Since I noticed that, I just want to do that every single time I get on base.”
In Venezuela, Blanco finished with a .337 average with 18 stolen bases in 57 games.
He’s had success at the major-league level, too. In 2010, he combined for a .283 average with the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals in 85 games.
Bochy likes what he sees in Blanco and it sounds like he already knows how he’ll utilize him midway through the spring schedule.
“He can start, he’s a good leadoff hitter ... a weapon coming off the bench late, pinch-hit him, pinch-run him, double switch,” Bochy said. “He knows how to play the game, too. He’s a smart player.”
A defensively sound fourth outfielder would make a lot of sense for a club that is planning on giving outfield playing time to Aubrey Huff and possibly Belt or Emmanuel Burriss.
“He’s got that ability to make things happen,” Bochy said. “All spring he’s done these little things and that can get contagious, which is what you’re hoping [for].”
The only one who won’t say if they thought Blanco would make the team is the outfielder himself.
“I don’t know, man, seriously, I have no idea,” he said. “I think I’m just doing good and that’s what I want. I hope I do [make the team]. ... We’ll see what happens.”
Gregor Blanco has spent time with the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals at the major-league level, but tweaked some things to elevate his game in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason. Here are his winter league numbers:
.478 On-base %
18 Stolen bases