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Blanco blooming in winter ball
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01/07/2004  4:51 PM ET
Blanco blooming in winter ball
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CINCINNATI -- Tony Blanco gives the Reds more choices at third base than most people realize.

Though the Reds lack an established Major League third baseman, they have plenty of intriguing options at the position. Perennial prospect Brandon Larson and Tim Hummel, acquired late last season from the Chicago White Sox, have helpful, if scant, big-league experience. Edwin Encarnacion has drawn attention as a player to watch for the near future, and Mark Schramek has sustained flurries of brilliance in the lower minors.

"That's probably a spot where we have some depth," Grant Griesser, Cincinnati's assistant farm director, said recently.

There's also Blanco, who was acquired from the Boston system with right-hander Josh Thigpen in the December 2002 Todd Walker trade. An elbow injury limited Blanco to 69 games last year with high-A Potomac, but the 22-year-old has recouped some of the lost time this winter while playing for Licey in the Dominican League. Despite playing sporadically, the right-handed batting Blanco hit .385 in his first 14 games with the Tigres.

"The fact that a guy that young is playing there speaks volumes for him as a prospect," Griesser said.

With Potomac, Blanco displayed the power that enabled him to lead the Gulf Coast League with 13 home runs in 2000, while hitting .266. Playing four years in Boston's system left Blanco with a little more savvy than the average Class A player possesses.

"He's a quick learner," Griesser said. "He really was receptive to the instruction he was getting once he came over. You could tell he was comfortable."

Blanco spent time as a designated hitter and at first base as he overcame his injury. He could find himself at first more often if the third-base competition grows too thick. "He probably has enough power to play there," Griesser said.

Blanco must refine two aspects of his game that challenge all younger players -- pitch recognition, because he's a free swinger, and conditioning, since he has a tendency to get soft.

Should Blanco improve, he'll no longer be part of a crowd.

"He has some serious power," Griesser said. "When he hits it, he hits it."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.






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