Blanks making most of his opportunity
Filling in for the injured Alonso, first baseman has 18 RBIs in June
SAN DIEGO -- While Kyle Blanks was sitting at his locker earlier this week, he was joined by former Padres outfielder Dave Winfield.
The Hall of Famer and Padres executive vice president and senior advisor, Winfield talked to Blanks for about 15 minutes, just one day after Blanks capped off one of the best games of his career with a walk-off single in Monday's victory over the Phillies.
Blanks had the first four-hit game of his career and three RBIs to continue his hot month at the plate. Blanks enters Friday's game against the Marlins hitting .301 with five homers and 18 RBIs this month -- the most for a Padres player in June since Adrian Gonzalez had 23 in 2010.
"There are tools that obviously can equate to a very solid Major League starting player," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He proved that he can hit for average in the Minor Leagues. He's showing Major League power already."
At 6-foot-6, 265 pounds, Blanks has a powerful swing and the ball jumps off his bat.
His .280 batting average and 31 RBIs are both career highs. It helps that Blanks is getting regular at-bats -- his 175 at-bats this season are already a career high -- because of an injury that landed first baseman Yonder Alonso on the disabled list.
"It's nice that I can feel all the little stuff in my body, my swing, defense stuff, things like that," Blanks said. "It's a little easier to monitor everything. With four at-bats [in a game], you have a lot to compare to.
"With a pinch-hit at-bat [one] night and a pinch-hit at-bat in two days, it gets tough to kind of see where you're at and how you feel -- the minor adjustments that do need to be made from at-bat to at-bat."
It also helps that Blanks is healthy again. Blanks has sustained a plethora of injuries in his career, including plantar fasciitis, Tommy John surgery and a labrum tear in his shoulder.
Before this season, Blanks changed his diet and a pregame routine that he tries to follow every day -- not out of obsession, but because it works.
"I feel like all the work before the games is what's keeping me healthy," Blanks said. "It's definitely the most work I've put into before the game of any year, and I think that's a product of years of trial and error."
Blanks tries to get to the ballpark early to give himself time to stretch and hit before he comes inside and relaxes at his locker, taking his mind off the game.
Yet, this month was close to never happening for Blanks.
When Cameron Maybin was set to return from the disabled list on June 5, Blanks was chosen to be sent down to Triple-A Tucson to make room on the roster.
Blanks didn't feel discouraged or angry, even as he sat in what he called limbo for a day. He didn't travel with the Padres as they left for Colorado, staying behind in San Diego waiting for his assignment.
Then an injury forced Alonso to the disabled list, and Blanks had a second chance. He had to get on a plane to Colorado and squeeze his 6-foot-6 frame into a middle seat.
But Blanks said the sudden change in fortune wasn't necessarily a turning point, as he never really changed anything.
"I could've been doing terribly and heard the same news, but it wasn't anything I did," Blanks said. "I was very happy with how I played, very happy with how I felt. Fortunately for me, it was a pretty quick turnaround."
Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.