Blalock making the move to first
Former third baseman feels he can best help team this way
ARLINGTON -- All-Star third baseman Hank Blalock has volunteered to move to first base when he comes off the disabled list this week, a huge move both for his career and for a surging Rangers team that has struggled to find an answer at the position since Mark Teixeira was traded last July.
Blalock, 27, had his first crash course at the position on Sunday morning with manager Ron Washington. They went over the main responsibilities and did a few physical things. Blalock left on Sunday afternoon for extended Spring Training in Arizona, where, he said, he will get many repetitions at a position that is foreign to him over the next three days.
Blalock has played all six of his Major League seasons at third base. He played shortstop in high school.
"The first thing I want to make clear is [that] I'm not doing anything to benefit myself," said Blalock, an All-Star at third base in 2003 and '04. "This is a new position for me. I'm not sure how well I'll do."
Blalock, out since April 26 with a torn left hamstring, started thinking about making the shift to first base while watching Friday's game against Houston. The Rangers have risen from a 9-18 low point to the .500 mark at 22-22 with Ramon Vazquez the primary third baseman. Vazquez is batting .400 in his last 16 games.
Blalock approached Washington about the idea on Friday.
"I went to Wash and asked him if we were a better team with me at first base, and he said yes."
Blalock then had a meeting on Saturday with Washington and general manager Jon Daniels.
"That was Hank's suggestion," Washington said. "That was Hank's decision. Looking at the team, it will probably help first base.
"We aren't closing the book on him being a third baseman," Washington said.
In Blalock's mind, that book is closed. He said he would play third base in a tricky situation like extra innings, but that's it.
"I have changed to first base," Blalock said. "I want to be the best I can be at this."
Both Daniels and Washington said they believe Blalock is versatile enough and a good enough athlete to make the switch.
The Rangers, who have had four different players start at first base this season, have already released Ben Broussard, eating his $3.85 million contract.
"I give Hank a lot of credit for this," Daniels said. "[He's] taking a team-first attitude. Hank volunteered to do this, and it makes a lot of sense."
Blalock said he talked to shortstop Michael Young and second baseman Ian Kinsler before he made the decision. Blalock said he has received a good response from other players and coaches.
Blalock said he talked to former Rangers teammate Phil Nevin for 20 minutes on the phone about the switch. Nevin moved from third to first with San Diego.
"[Nevin] talked me through some of the responsibilities," Blalock said. "I'm sure I'll talk to him more."
Blalock said he also might call Teixeira, who made the switch from third to first while in the Minor Leagues with the Rangers. Teixeira has become one of the best defensive first basemen in the league, winning a Gold Glove with the Rangers in 2005 and '06.
"He's the best first baseman in the big leagues I've seen," Blalock said.
Blalock said he realizes this is a big decision.
"It's a change in my profession," Blalock said. "I look at it as a challenge. Doing a good job is important to me."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.