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  • Gregor Blanco

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Blanco, Torres keep it friendly

Published: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – It could have been an awkward moment. Gregor Blanco lined a shot to left field during live batting practice earlier this week and watched as Andres Torres chased it down and made a great catch at the wall.

Blanco and Torres are competing for playing time in left field, one of the few true competitions in Giants camp. But Torres' over-the-shoulder catch didn't have Blanco, the incumbent, looking over his shoulder.

"It's not going to be me during the season; it's going to be an opponent," Blanco said, smiling. "Torres and I are going to get to everything. We see it as competition in a good way, and it's going to make both of us better players."

Yes, in a camp where the phrase "great chemistry" plays on a loop, even the only true competition for a starting spot has taken on a very friendly tone. Blanco thinks the two speedy outfielders will complement each other perfectly in left field and said he isn't concerned about losing playing time. In fact, he may benefit from it.

Blanco felt he wore down mentally at times last season while serving as a regular starter for the first time since 2008, leading to several slumps. He had a .884 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) in May, but that number dipped below .600 in July and August. As the postseason approached, Blanco found a second wind, hitting .283 in September and contributing consistently in the postseason, especially on defense.

"It was a good year, but I can do better," Blanco said. "I need to be more consistent, and I think I'm headed in that direction."

The Giants think Blanco again will be a key contributor, splitting time with Torres in left and spelling Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence at the other two outfield spots. That plan sounds fine to Blanco, who a year ago was a little-known player who won a major-league job with a strong spring. After having so much success with Blanco and Joaquin Arias, manager Bruce Bochy is looking for the next surprise contributor as he fills out the roster.

"They're critical, the 23rd, 24th, 25th guys," Bochy said. "You're going to need them at some point. They can make a difference in your season, especially with the types of games we play."

Blanco's breakthrough included a perfect-game-saving catch and four World Series starts. He said he didn't watch the highlights much during the offseason, preferring to "leave the past in the past." But every time he left the house in Venezuela, Blanco got a reminder that he has finally made it.

"Everybody at home sees me a little differently," he said. "That's for sure."

Notes – Left-hander Barry Zito looked sharp during his second live batting practice session of the spring.

"Z really looks good," Bochy said. "He came in ready. He's right where he needs to be right now."

On the minor-league field, left-hander Dan Runzler and right-hander Heath Hembree got high marks from the hitters they faced. Both pitchers are competing for a bullpen spot.

• Bochy canceled today's intrasquad game because several of the scheduled pitchers aren't quite ready for game action.

With 37 spring training games on the schedule and 10 players leaving for the World Baseball Classic, the Giants intend to play it safe when they can.

• Bochy intends to meet with Kensuke Tanaka today and said the Japanese infielder is willing to play in the outfield as well.

Normally a second baseman, Tanaka must prove he can help out at shortstop and third base to make the club.

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Read more articles by Alex Pavlovic



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