PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks on Monday released veteran catcher Henry Blanco from his contract and as expected subsequently added him to their coaching staff.
The D-backs attempted to find a place in the majors for Blanco, 42, after deciding on Tuffy Gosewisch as their backup catcher. As much as the D-backs would have liked to accommodate Blanco’s desire to play one more season, they’re happy still to have his experience and knowledge.
"He’s got a lot to give," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He doesn’t want to get out of the game. He’s been a determined guy throughout his career.
"Just having him around with his personality and his knowledge and what he has to give back will be great."
Blanco did not retire, leaving open the possibility he could play again this season if an opportunity came along to play in the majors for a 17th season. Whether or not he would take it sounds like it would depend on the specific opportunity. For now, he’ll assist hitting coach Turner Ward.
"I think that this is a good opportunity, to stay here with Arizona," Blanco said. "I know almost everybody here. I think that’s going to make it a little bit easier."
As the D-backs took batting practice Monday ahead of their Opening Day game against the Giants, Blanco was behind the cage monitoring hitters, seemingly ready to embrace whatever role keeps him in the game.
Gibson was at Chase Field on Monday morning rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee when Blanco walked in and a clubhouse attendant referred to him as ‘coach’ for the first time. The title sounded right.
"That had a little different feel to it," Gibson said. "I said ‘He’ll be a damn god one,’ and I think he will be."
Blanco played in 971 games with 11 teams. He had a career .223 batting average with 72 home runs and 298 RBIs. He threw out 40.49 percent of attempted base stealers.
Owings enjoys first Opening Day
D-backs shortstop Chris Owings, only a few days removed from learning he won the starting job out of spring training, had the opportunity to reflect on the past year Monday and appeared to be doing so for the first time.
"Las year today I was probably driving to Reno, Nev.," Owings said. "Compare that to today, I’m just trying to get settled in here in Phoenix and it’s definitely a huge difference. I’m excited to be where I am right now; I’m excited about this season."
Owings isn’t new to the majors, having debuted last September, but is new to the Opening Day experience, one of baseball’s most revered traditions. Technically, it was his second Opening Day, given that he was active for the D-backs two-game series in Australia 10 days ago, but the experience is a little different at home.
"It’s always seemed like a holiday to me in every city I was at," Gibson said. "People get real excited about it, as they should."
Owings, whose parents flew in to Arizona on Monday to be at the game, said he’d try to treat the game like any other, at least after getting through the first inning. While he may not fully appreciate the experience until later in his career, Owings admitted being an Opening Day starter is the latest dream come true in his young career.
"Getting called up last year was definitely a dream come true," Owings said. "I’m really excited about adding on to that. To be here when the season starts is exciting and I’m just excited to get today rolling and get on with the season."
— With Blanco’s addition to the major league coaching staff, Mark Grace will remain in the minors as hitting coach for the short season Class A Hillsboro Hops.
— David Hernandez will have surgery Tuesday to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The diagnosis from Dr. James Andrews confirmed the initial belief Hernandez will need Tommy John surgery, and Andrews will perform the surgery in Pensacola, Fla.