SCOTTSDALE — Gregor Blanco turned 34 years old a few weeks before signing with the Giants, so it seems unlikely that he’s faster than he was during his first stint with the organization, which started six years ago. And yet...Blanco sure does look to have an extra step.
“I feel like I am (faster), to tell you the truth,” Blanco said.
Teammates and team officials have noticed. Bruce Bochy has repeatedly said that Blanco looks like he’s still in his twenties, and after he legged out an easy triple — his second of the spring — on Sunday, Hunter Pence noted that Blanco looks faster. Pence said Blanco has opened eyes with his explosive work in the weight room.
“You watch some of what he’s doing...it’s incredible,” Pence said.
Blanco has made speed work his emphasis, doing work with training bands and mixing in plenty of box jumps. He said Pence is actually the one who deserves credit. Blanco overhauled his workout routine after seeing Pence’s work on explosiveness when the two were teammates the first time. He has continued to tweak things. Blanco said he recently ran a 6.4-second 60-yard dash.
“The last time I did that was when I was like 16 years old,” he said, laughing.
According to Statcast’s Sprint Speed metric, Blanco was one of the fastest players in the big leagues last year at the age of 33. He was as fast as Jarrod Dyson, known as a burner, and he entered camp as the fastest Giant (Steven Duggar hasn’t been tracked by Statcast yet). That skill gives him a leg up on others. The Giants did so many things poorly last season that sometimes it got lost just how little speed they had on the field, and Bochy has noticed the dimension Blanco has added to his roster once again.
“It’s like he hasn’t changed,” Bochy said. “We’ve all gotten older but he looks exactly the same as when he came in as a non-roster (invitee) in 2012.”
Bochy continues to talk about how competitive the race for the final two outfield spots is, but at this point, Blanco looks like a pretty good bet to once again be wearing orange and black on opening day.
--- Pablo Sandoval made a nifty play in the fifth when Andres Blanco’s throw to first went up the line. Sandoval jumped off the bag and swipe-tagged Freddy Galvis as he ran by. Sandoval was pretty much a roster lock coming into the spring, and he has done nothing to hurt his status. He looks pretty agile at first, which could come into play at some point. The staff has not fully shelved the idea of Brandon Belt playing the outfield against certain pitchers.
Sandoval said he hasn’t caught any bullpen sessions yet, but he still plans to as he prepares to be an emergency catcher. He was slowed a bit in recent days after jamming his hand taking a swing.
--- Mark Melancon gave up a solo homer to Jose Pirela, but otherwise had a good day. He struck out Eric Hosmer and got Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe to ground out. The appearance was Melancon’s second of the spring, and his stuff looked pretty crisp. Melancon has mentioned some lingering arm discomfort, but there don’t seem to be any issues when he’s on the mound.
--- Pence hit a grand slam and talked about some of the things he’s trying to do with his swing this spring. Here’s video of the blast.