SAN FRANCISCO — Six years ago, Gregor Blanco came to Scottsdale Stadium as a little-known outfielder looking for a bench job. It was clear early that spring that Blanco would be a valued member of Bruce Bochy’s outfield.
Now 34 years old, Blanco is hoping for a repeat performance.
Since that first spring breakout, Blanco has won two titles, made a catch that will forever be remembered in San Francisco, developed into a fan favorite, and set his family up financially. He also has spent a year away, playing 90 games for the rival Diamondbacks.
Blanco returned to the Giants late in the offseason, breaking the news of his minor league deal on Instagram. He was all smiles Tuesday after putting the orange and black back on, taking several photos of his cleats to post on his social media pages.
“This is home for me,” Blanco said. “I’m really excited and hungry. I worked really hard in the winter so that I can show my abilities again.”
Blanco batted .246 for the Diamondbacks, posting a .694 OPS with three homers and 15 stolen bases. His numbers in 2016 — his last year with the Giants — were lower, but Blanco believes he has plenty left. Statcast’s metrics show that Blanco is still one of the faster players in the big leagues -- per Sprint Speed, he is the fastest on the Giants roster -- and he was 15-for-16 on the bases last season. Most importantly, the Giants still believe in Blanco’s versatile glove. He’s an option to split time with Austin Jackson in center and back up both corner spots.
“A guy like Gregor, who we know really well and he’s played a role in our success, it’s good to have him back,” Bochy said.
Bochy said Gorkys Hernandez will also be in that mix in center, and noted Steven Duggar is a rookie “that we’re going to take a good strong look at in center field.” Blanco, Hernandez and Jarrett Parker are out of minor league options, so there’s some urgency there. Mac Williamson and Austin Slater are also competing for an outfield bench spot, although both have options remaining.
It’s a familiar group, and that vibe extends past the outfield. Blanco spent some time Tuesday catching up with Hector Sanchez, who also is back on a minor league deal. Sanchez found that his locker is right next to Pablo Sandoval’s.
The next few weeks will be spent fighting for jobs, but on Day 1, it was all about enjoying being back with the Giants.
“I feel like I’m a kid again,” Blanco said.