By Gary Hill
The well-traveled Henry Blanco made his debut for the Mariners on Saturday. He has donned 11 different Major League uniforms in his 16-year career, which is the second most in baseball history. Blanco has appeared for the Dodgers, Rockies, Brewers, Braves, Twins, Cubs, Padres, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Mariners. Matt Stairs is the only player in baseball history who has played for more MLB teams (12).
Blanco has continued to be an attractive backup catcher option because of his supreme defensive abilities and his stellar reputation as a mentor to young backstops. Mike Piazza, Javy Lopez, Joe Mauer, Miguel Montero, Jason Kendall and Geovany Soto headline the list of catchers Blanco has teamed with. His wealth of positive attributes has consistently compelled organizations to overlook his offensive shortcomings.
Blanco was hitting .184 in Toronto this season with zero home runs. He has hit above .235 one time in the last five seasons. He has always been able to provide occasional pop, but he has only reached double figures in homers once in his career and he has only gone deep one time since Sept. 28, 2011.
Blanco became the second-oldest catcher to put on a uniform for the Mariners:
Pat Borders, 2005: Age 42
Henry Blanco, 2013: 41
Pat Borders, 2004: 41
Pat Borders, 2003: 40
Pat Borders, 2002: 39
Pat Borders, 2001: 38
Jamie Burke, 2009: 37
Steve Yeager, 1986: 37
Tom Lampkin, 2000: 37
Blanco strolled to the plate for his third at-bat of the ballgame on Saturday against the A’s with one out and the bases loaded. In the scoreless game, the A’s had just intentionally walked Michael Saunders, who is hitting below .200 in June. Blanco thundered the offering from A.J. Griffin to left field. The ball hugged the line before flying into the stands and giving the Mariners a 4-0 lead with one swing of the bat.
It was the second career grand slam for Blanco. He belted his last salami on May 12, 2000 off of Jason Schmidt. Over 13 years passed between slams for Blanco, which is the fifth-longest amount of time since 1900 and the longest since Willie McGee. Blanco’s last grand slam was so long ago he drove in Kevin Barker, Marquis Grissom and Lyle Mouton when he hit it.
The Mariners bested the A’s 4-0 on Saturday. Not only did Blanco provide all the runs with one swing of the bat, but he was behind the dish as M’s hurlers tossed a shutout of the powerful A’s. He also made a tremendous tag at home plate to cut down a runner trying to score.
The debut for Blanco on Saturday may go down as the best opening act in the history of the Mariners. The following is a list of the best debuts in M’s history with a tip of the cap to the calls, texts, tweets, e-mails, letters and words of wisdom that were received Saturday and Sunday.
• Ken Griffey Jr., April 3, 1989: “The Kid” took the field as a 19-year-old and announced his presence by ripping a double off of All-Star Dave Stewart.
• Richie Sexson. April 4, 2005: Sexson smashed two homers and drove in all five runs against the Twins. Seattle won 5-2.
• Alvin Davis, April 11, 1984: A.D. launched a three-run homer off of Dennis Eckersley in the fourth inning to snap a scoreless tie. He went 1-2 with three RBIs and two walks in the Mariners’ 5-4 win over Boston
• Gary Matthews Sr., July 2, 1987: As a 16-year veteran, “Sarge” crushed a home run off of Al Nipper and drove in three runs to help Seattle take down the Red Sox 6-1.
• Mark Whiten, Aug. 16, 1996: He lived up to his name, Mark “Hard Hittin” Whiten, by belting a pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning against the Yankees to tie the score. His very first at-bat as a Mariner helped propel them to a 6-5 win.
• Alex Diaz, April 29, 1995: He came in late in the ballgame and drilled a three-run home run in his first at-bat. The Mariners battered the Tigers 11-1.
• Cliff Lee, April 30, 2010: He blanked the Rangers for seven innings while yielding just three hits and fanning eight. Texas prevailed 2-0.
• Rickey Henderson, May 19, 2000: The Hall of Famer entered the game as a pinch-runner and scored the tying run standing up versus Tampa Bay. Rickey electrified Safeco Field as the Mariners beat Tampa Bay 7-6. He hit a leadoff homer the next day off of Esteban Yan in his first M’s at-bat.
• Kenji Johjima, April 3, 2006: He hit a home run in his debut, but the M’s fell to the Angels 5-4.
Now is the time to volley in any additions to the list that were missed.