Notes: Blum doesn't sweat pinch-hitting
Bard eager to catch Maddux; leadoff spot up for grabs
PEORIA, Ariz. -- There are tougher jobs than pinch-hitting, like milking rattlesnakes, cleaning windows at the Sears Tower or trying to stay on the back of the bull Bodacious for at least eight seconds.The list, however, is short. "It is the toughest thing to do in baseball," said Geoff Blum, who is one of the best pinch-hitters in the game. Blum's job description: Sit for maybe eight innings, come off the bench, face closers like Billy Wagner, who is throwing in the high 90s, or Tom Gordon, who has a knee-buckling curve, and deliver a key hit for the Padres. "I lower my expectations before I even go up there," Blum said with a laugh. "Anything that happens out of a pinch-hitting situation is a bonus. There are expectations on you, but the expectations aren't too high just because it is one of those hard things to come off the bench ice-cold, sometimes face a guy you haven't seen in a while and try to get a hit. "Usually it is in some pretty serious situations, runners in scoring position or you need to get on base to score some runs. Just lower your expectations a little bit and go out there and try to enjoy it and take advantage of that one at-bat you get a day." Blum's .387 pinch-hitting average was the highest in the Majors last season. His 12 pinch-hits included four doubles and a home run. "You are facing specialists, who are designed to set up a closer, or guys who close games, so you're not facing just anybody that shouldn't be there," Blum said. "You are facing a guy one time. You don't get three at-bats against the guy. All you have got is tendencies you've seen on video and a little bit of luck." Blum, a 33-year-old switch-hitter, takes as much information as possible and experience to the plate. "Every series you get scouting reports, you're watching video, you see the flow of the game, you get used to your manager, you see how he works, how he is going to use you and in what situations and what-not. You kind of go from there. You go up there with as much knowledge as you can. "The first time you do it, you put a lot of pressure on yourself. Early on in my career, I've put a lot of heat on myself for not getting a hit in situations or getting a hit every time I went up. I think the biggest thing in pinch-hitting is going up there and having good quality at-bats, seeing pitches, working counts if you can."
Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.