MadFriars' Interview: Kyle Blanks

Tucson: Blanks, a 42nd round draft pick by the Padres out of Yavapai Junior College (AZ) in 2004 under the old draft-and-follow system, banged down the doors with a big season in the pitcher friendly environment of San Antonio hitting .325/.404/.515 with 20 home runs and 107 RBIs in 2008.

The problem was at a slimmed down 275 lbs. Blanks future, although the Padres did move him to left field in 2009, seemed destined for first base when Adrian Gonzalez eventually declared for free agency.

The problem was that Blanks went down with Tommy John surgery in mid-May of 2010 after showing surprising agility for a 6'6" man of his size at the end of 2009 along with the promise of a potentially big bat that PETCO Park couldn't hold. He finished strong with post-all star numbers of .288/.393/.635.

In the off-season the Padres acquired top Red Sox prospect Anthony Rizzo, who proceeded to destroy the Pacific Coast League and became the heir apparent at first base, blocking Blanks once again.

However the difference this time is Blanks seems much suited for the outfield than he was in 2009 weighing twenty pounds less, stronger and moving much better in the gaps.

We caught up with Kyle to talk about the long layoff and his new physique.

I saw you in San Antonio in April and you seem so much more comfortable at the plate here in June. Can you talk about the process of regaining your baseball skills.

Kyle Blanks: I guess a swing is always under construction. You are maintaining and trying to keep things as simple as possible. The last few days I feel like I am making strides in that direction. Last night I felt good and put some good swings on the ball and felt better each day.

Can you talk too about seeing live pitching as compared to hitting in the cage?

Kyle Blanks: Someone flipping the ball at 5 to 10 MPH and letting you just work the ball around compared to something coming at you over 90 MPH; there really isn't much comparison.

Even when its coming off of a machine at good velocity its still different than seeing it come out of the hand.

Kyle Blanks: Yeah, but I'm not big on hitting off of machines. Even someone throwing to you in the cage is different. Hitting in the cage is more of a tool to help you with the real thing than a simulation.

There is only so much you can do to simulate a game. Even BP really isn't close to game situations. They help but you have to use them for what they are and when the game comes around try to incorporate what you were working on when you go into the box.

Have faith in the work that you have put in and it will come naturally. You don't want to go up to the plate thinking, "I have to do this or I have to do that". You need to be able to react and hope the work that you have put in will pay off.

Could you go over a little bit on the recovery period for a position player after Tommy John surgery?

Kyle Blanks: I was in a cast for about six weeks that really controlled my range of motion. After that it was just gradually increasing my range of motion. Small shoulder exercises and about at the three month mark was when I was finally able to start lifting again.

I started to throw at around six months later, really lightly. First time was at 45 feet, then 60, then 75, 90 and ended at 120 feet. It was a really tedious process with a lot of little things to work on. I didn't have any real setbacks, when it was time to progress, I progressed.

It was very monotonous, doing a lot of the same things every day. Every time I reached another milestone; getting to lift weight or throwing at 120 feet those small milestones allowed me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It must have been tough to stay positive.

Kyle Blanks: I had my days but I also didn't have any real setbacks which was huge. I had a lot to be happy about.

So you're spring training was pretty limited. You didn't get to do many of the things you would have wanted.

Kyle Blanks: I was still pretty restricted with my throwing program and hitting. At the end I started to get dialed up but I didn't start making game type throws until three-quarters of the way through.

I had some at-bats but after not seeing live pitching in so long it was tough. I didn't expect a whole lot. I wasn't looking to hit a home run but just trying to see the ball and put a good swing on it. That was pretty much the best I could hope for.

It seems it was equally important on how well you disciplined your mind as your body?

Kyle Blanks: Physically it is a big process but mentally you can really get in your own head about so many things. I had some bad days but it was limited to a few. If I had a bad throwing day usually it was followed by a very good day so it got me back on track.

Even hitting I got to take ten swings off of a tee the first time and it felt awful. But the next day it felt better, and the next day was better after that. You have to take those little victories where you get them.

You look in great shape. What did you do to get in such great shape. One year when I saw you in Fort Wayne weren't you around 315 lbs.?

Kyle Blanks: No, the heaviest I ever got was 300 lbs. and that was only because I had a staph infection on my foot and couldn't really work out. Right now I'm 255.

What did you do to get in such great shape?

Kyle Blanks: Actually my workouts are about the same its mainly just eating the right stuff at the right time. The less temptation you give into the more rewarding it is with the results. When I started to eat right I started seeing the results immediately.

It was great encouragement so why would I stop? I stick to it now about as much as I can and it still seems to be doing well.

It seems that it must be tougher in the minors to maintain that kind of diet because many times your choices are so limited.

Kyle Blanks: Yeah sometimes you are stuck eating what is there. Typically when you are at home you can control better what you eat and that is when I really try to take advantage of it.

Its not always easy to get the salad instead of the burger. I look at the risk to reward and if its something bad I'm not going to feel great later. But every now and then I will break my diet but I try to pick my spots.

You made a couple of good plays in the outfield the other night. I thought before you were ok before but you showed much better range than ever before.

Kyle Blanks: I definitely feel a little quicker off of the draw. My feet really don't hurt anymore and anything that I've done well has a lot to do with the work I put in with coach Rick Renteria the Padres bench and outfield coach].

He worked with me for over a year on everything from routes to how to throw a ball out there. I put myself in a good position getting in better shape but you if you don't get the right jumps you could be the fastest person in the world and you are not going to make the plays you need too.

I'm not the fastest person so my reads need to be a lot more acute than someone else. I have to do so many little things right to make those plays. I'm still a ways away but I'm going in the right direction.

You look about as comfortable in left field now as you did at first.

Kyle Blanks: Yeah when I get out there now, with the amount of time I've played out there, I do feel better. I feel good out there but there is still work to be done out there.

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