SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Something about being back with the San Francisco Giants has Gregor Blanco feeling rejuvenated.
The veteran outfielder won two World Series rings with them and will forever be remembered by Giants fans for his diving catch that preserved former pitcher Matt Cain’s perfect game in 2012.
At 34, Blanco hopes he can still run down a ball in the outfield that same way.
“This is home for me. I worked really hard in the winter to show my abilities again. I worked the whole winter on my speed,” Blanco said. “I feel like I’m a kid again.”
What’s getting older is new again for the Giants, who have brought back World Series veterans Blanco, catcher Hector Sanchez, and — after a stint for part of last season — infielder Pablo Sandoval, who is at spring training with San Francisco for the first time in four years.
All three players will have to compete for a major league bench spot in camp. The Giants added a third baseman in major offseason acquisition Evan Longoria, two catchers in Buster Posey and Nick Hundley ahead of Sanchez and a glut of outfielders for a backup role, including Gorkys Hernandez, Mac Williamson, Jarrett Parker and Austin Slater.
Blanco hit .246 and stole 15 bases in 90 games for Arizona last season. He has value with his ability to play all three outfield positions, serve as pinch-runner and bat left-handed.
“That’s why we signed him. When we bring guys in, we like to think that they’re going to get an opportunity to make the club, and if not, that they give us depth at Triple-A,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Obviously sometimes you don’t have room for somebody … a guy like Gregor who we know very well and has really played a huge role in our past success, it’s good to have him back. He’s an upbeat guy, he gives us versatility, center field, right, left, wherever.”
Blanco is with the Giants on a minor league deal, but he’s been in that situation before and made a big impact in the majors.
“It wasn’t that long ago when he was in a similar role back in 2012, trying to make the club and he made the club,” Bochy said. “Ended up getting a lot of playing time, ended up playing in a World Series for us.”
Blanco is happy to be reunited with Sanchez, Sandoval and teammates from the past, having won championships in 2012 and 2014.
“When I got here I was really excited to see the guys,” he said. “This is like a family.”
Sanchez had been away from the Giants for two years while with the White Sox and Padres, and said he’s grateful to the organization for another chance. He considers Blanco and Sandoval to be like brothers to him.
“It’s really special to back with those type of players, for real,” Sanchez said in Spanish. “What we accomplished before in this uniform, we know what we have done and it’s so great to be back.”
“I think (the Giants) know the quality of players and people we are,” Sanchez added. “They know we will bring 100 percent to the field, that we will give everything possible to win. When you have buddies who have gone through a World Series year with you, they’re like brothers, like family.”
Blanco was asked about his memorable catch from Cain’s big night. He said it continues to serve as an inspiration for him to continue his career.
“That reminds me to always play hard,” he said. “I watch that video whenever I’m down.”
NOTES: RHP Julian Fernandez cut the index finger on his throwing hand on his locker on Sunday, causing him to miss a schedule bullpen session and possibly a couple of days. … The Giants’ position players (non-pitchers and catchers) had physicals on Sunday, with the first full-team workout set for Monday. Among those reporting was new 3B Evan Longoria, who arrived in a trade with Tampa Bay. “It’s kind of been the longest month and a half of my offseason career, just waiting to put on a new uniform and kind of get the offseason jitters out of the way,” he said.