During last night’s victory over the Diamondbacks, manager Bud Black removed Kyle Blanks in a double switch (with Cesar Ramos) for Scott Hairston and Mike Adams. The score was 5-2 Padres, with the tying run at the plate in the form of Justin Upton, so it was a serious situation, and Blanks’ spot was due up eighth the next inning. After Upton’s run scoring infield single, Adams induced a flyout from Adam LaRoche and came back to pitch a scoreless eighth. For his part, Hairston later drew a walk.
All’s well that ends well, right? Right. But I still have a concern.
Lifting Blanks was the logical decision. While Headley was due up ninth, backup third baseman Jerry Hairston, Jr. was already in the game at second, making a double switch to remove Headley a little less neat. And Headley’s an honest-to-goodness third baseman so it’s not like he’s a defensive liability, not like first baseman-cum-left fielder Blanks. Removing Blanks for a defensive substitution, double switch or no, might not be the worst idea in the world, especially for a team beginning to pride itself on small ball. That Blanks is the second best hitter* on the team however, might be a detail.
Can the Padres really afford to give Blanks the Ryan Klesko treatment**? More to the point, should they? Had the best laid plans not worked out and Arizona came back to tie the game, what happens to the team’s odds of coming back themselves with Blanks on the bench?
(This is where I acknowledge that I’m making assumptions. What happened last night may have been last night specific, with the team having no further plans to Klesko-ize Blanks, if that’s even what it was. Or it might be exactly the team’s plans moving forward, in which case continue reading.)
As I mentioned earlier, the team is priding themselves on playing small ball and stealing a lot of bases in Spring Training. How does Blanks and his outside linebacker’s body fit into this? That’s right, at first base.
Adrian wouldn’t be the first All-Star first baseman let go in part because of a youngster breathing down his neck. Just last year, the Angels were able to live with Mark Teixeira signing with the Yankees because Kendry Morales was ready to jump in and hit 34 home runs. Of course, they could’ve resigned Teixeira and forced the less-than-agile Morales to play out of position, but Kevin Towers wasn’t running the team at the time.
I know Hoyer inherited a mess, but something is wrong when a weak hitting team such as the Padres sees removing a 30 home threat from a game as a viable option. And while I trust Hoyer to clean things up, I hope last night’s move at least made him go hmm.
*According to most projections (Bill James, CHONE, etc.), Blanks will be a 120 wRC+ hitter this year, putting him behind only Adrian on the team.
**Quick history lesson: Ryan Klesko was the team’s starting left fielder in 2004 and 05 and was horrible defensively, which is why he frequently watched the end of games on the bench while someone more capable did his job in left.