Henry Blanco just had a brief chat by his locker with manager Eric Wedge, who was going over some of the things he’s looking for from the 41-year-old. Blanco isn’t starting behind the plate tonight and likely won’t be on most nights.
Some are asking why the Mariners opted to sign Blanco instead of keeping Kelly Shoppach if they’re both only going to play sparingly. We haven’t heard the official explanation yet and won’t for a good half hour or so. But for now, let’s take a look at Blanco’s track record.
He was with the Chicago Cubs back in 2005, when a young catcher named Geovany Soto got his first taste of MLB action there. Soto later credited Blanco for much of his success coming up, as well as when he captured the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2008 when given his first extended playing time.
“Yeah, I’ve got him, I’ve got (Miguel) Montero when he was with Arizona,” Blanco said. “I’ve had a few guys. I feel good about it, knowing I helped them and seeing how they’re performing now and having good careers.”
Blanco has let younger catchers know they can approach him with any questions. And sometimes, he won’t wait for them to ask.
“Sometimes, I’ll just go to them if I see something in the game, I’ll just let them know,” he said. “And sometimes, if they have questions, they’ll call me on my cell. It’s a pretty good relationship and I’m a pretty easy guy to talk to.”
The Mariners, clearly, would like him to help mentor Mike Zunino.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m here,” Blanco said. “Just to help him out and to try to win some games.”
Now, there’s a difference between a player who is over 30 and an older player who can help mentor guys. Not every aging backup catcher is automatically going to be a great mentor because, quite frankly, it isn’t in their preceise job description.
Shoppach was 33 and still looking to play several more seasons in the big leagues. He was here to help some of the younger players, sure. But he didn’t have a track record of havng actually done that the way Blanco did in his prior stops.
That’s not a knock against Shoppach, who was actually hitting quite well and doing an admirable job in his limited role with the Mariners before they began putting him behind the plate just about every single day starting in May.
But one thing we can judge right off the bat with this Blanco acquisition?
Well, I’d say it looks as if the team plans to keep Zunino around longer than just another week or so until Jesus Sucre is healthy.
Things can always change, sure. Especially if Zunino bombs and Blanco is completely washed-up. But I’d say that’s not how the Mariners envision it going.
And it looks from here as if they plan on seeing if Zunino can go the distance in 2013.
In other news, the Mariners will go with Michael Morse at first base tonight and Kendrys Morales as the DH. Don’t forget, the Mariners just gave both players two days off in a row to get over their respective quad and back hurts, so hopefully that plan works out. We’ll know more tomorrow, depending on whether both are in the lineup or not. If Morse is back in the field, that will be a great sign because it means the Mariners will not have to use Morales there more often that he can handle.
As for the outfield, it’s still relying heavily on Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay, both playing the corners tonight. Dustin Ackley should be up here within a week or two to ease that burden.