SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Padres acquired slugger Jabari Blash as part of the Drew Pomeranz deal from Oakland this off-season after the A's selected the outfielder in the Rule 5 Draft. The Padres decided to give the six-foot-five, 240 lb. outfielder a chance to occupy a spot on the big league roster all season long.
"I was pumped about the opportunity to play for San Diego. I was finally getting the chance to play major league baseball," said Blash before a recent game.
Blash, 27, hit 32 home runs with the Seattle organization in 2015 and the San Diego brass and fans alike were tantalized by the outfielder's power potential. The organization lost left fielder Justin Upton to free agency and Blash had a golden opportunity to receive regular playing time. Instead, Melvin Upton Jr. played well and the presence of Matt Kemp made it difficult to get on the field.
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On May 11, the Padres designated him for assignment. In 22 games, Blash received just three starts and 29 plate appearances and produced a meager .120/.241/.160 slash-line. The outfielder was exposed to waivers and the Seattle Mariners had the opportunity to re-acquire Blash.
"When I made the team, I thought that I would be a Padre all year but that didn't pan out. But I felt blessed that I received the chance to play here. No one wants to be designated but it is part of the game."
Ultimately, Blash cleared waivers and the Padres sent cash considerations to Seattle to re-add him to the organization. While he lost his 40-man roster spot, he did receive regular playing time in Triple-A El Paso.
"I went to El Paso and got some regular at-bats, which really helped. I made a few adjustments to my swing, just really tried to perfect a few things with my mechanics. I just wanted to perform well and prove myself."
In El Paso, Blash did what he has done throughout his professional career: walk and hit homers. The outfielder hit .260/.415/.514 with 11 home runs and 41 walks in just 229 plate appearances. The strikeouts were plentiful as well -- 66 in 62 games, but his power and walk rate were still intriguing to the organization.
"Blash is a fun player to watch. He gets on base, he hits the ball hard and he can take the walks. He will play hard but consistency will be the key for him at the next level," said Felix Chavez, who covers the Chihuahuas for the El Paso Times.
When the Padres moved outfielder Matt Kemp at the trade deadline, many speculated that top outfield prospects Manuel Margot or Hunter Renfroe would get an opportunity to make their big league debuts -- instead, the organization decided to give Blash a second chance to seize a job in San Diego.
"When I first made the club out of spring training I wasn't getting any at-bats so it was really tough. When I did (get at-bats), they were tough at-bats and it was difficult to get into a rhythm. It was still my job to come through in those situations. Now that I am going to play more, I can relax and get out all of the jitters. It is easier to perform when you know that you are going to play regularly."
Blash started six consecutive games after having his contract purchased from El Paso and reached base in five of those games. The strikeouts are present but so are the other impressive tools that he brings to the park every day.
"Blash has an opportunity," said Padres manager Andy Green. He could have done everything he has so far if we just put him on the field. In April, we just weren't in a place to give him that chance. Since he's come back up, the quality and length of his at-bats have been good. I think he will continue to hit as he plays more."
On August 3rd, in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Blash connected on his first Major League homer, a laser line-drive to right off of former Padres reliever Blaine Boyer. It was a moment that he will always remember.
"I got a pitch in the heart of the plate that I could handle. Off of the bat, I thought for sure it was a double, so I hustled out of the box. When I saw it go out, I was definitely pumped. I was looking forward to that moment but now I am just glad it is out of the way."
Blash has the last two months to make his impression on the organization and prove that he deserves a chance to be a large part of the future of San Diego baseball. It is a chance that he relishes.
"I know that I can always get better. I take pride in being aggressive at the plate but I will also take my walks when they come. I have learned a lot from being around bench coach Mark McGwire and hitting coach Alan Zinter. I am learning every day and I feel extremely confident. It is all about making the most of the opportunities that I have been given."
You can follow all of the action in the Padres' minor league system at www.madfriars.com and @madfriars on Twitter.