It’s nice when a move appears to pay off right away, isn’t it? Just yesterday, the Mariners designated their “backup” catcher Kelly Shoppach for assignment. They replaced him with 41-year old Henry Blanco, who made his MLB debut in 1997. The move was met by the obvious skepticism that comes with signing a player with no future or even present.
But Blanco showed all of his critics why the Mariners made the move in his first start on the job. First things first, he caught a great nine innings. He guided Felix Hernandez through seven brilliant innings against a tough lineup top-to-bottom. He also framed pitches from Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush that led to big strikeouts in the eighth and ninth innings.
Blanco also contributed with his defense in a big way in the bottom of the fifth. With Jed Lowrie at third and just one out, a fly out from Chris Young threatened to score the game’s first run. But a brilliant throw from Endy Chavez hit Blanco’s glove, and the veteran blocked the plate and put a beautiful tag on Lowrie for the double play.
The old adage about a player making a great defensive play one inning doing damage with his bat in the next frame came true for Blanco in the top of the sixth. After a walk to Michael Saunders loaded the bases Blanco came to the plate with a plan: get a first pitch fastball and demolish it. That he did, as he belted his second career grand slam down the left field line. That swing resulted in the only runs of the game for either team.
Blanco’s fingerprints were all over the win in his first start for Seattle. It makes sense that people criticized the Mariners for picking him up, but what he did today went beyond even their wildest expectations. He may prove to be yet another quality veteran brought in by Jack Z in 2013.