May 7, 2007 The Oakland Athletics medical room looks like a M*A*S*H unit right now, with outfielder bodies, dead and dying, littering the locker room. While that has sucked for fans of superstar Athletics outfielders Swisher, Bradley, and Kotsay (and less-than-superstar Kielty), the situation has proven to have a host of hidden benefits for Oakland.
Benefit #1) Travis Buck (Vancouver Canadians 2005) has jumped into the big leagues and showed himself to be worth a long term spot. Last night he led off for the A’s and went 1-3 with a walk.
Benefit #2) Jack Cust was grabbed from San Diego for a bag of balls and promptly started mashing, hitting 6 home runs in 7 games.
Benefit #3) Danny ‘The Grape’ Putnam (Vancouver Canadians 2004) was brought up from AA ball, and while he didn’t light things up in the majors, he hit his first ML home run, knocked a few base hits out, and showed he has some skills in defense.
But there’s been another benefit to the A’s organization; one that flies a little lower under the radar. That would be the case of Nick Blasi.
Blasi played for Vancouver in 2004 as a right fielder/lead off man, and though he wasn’t one of the stars of the team that season, he was right up there in the second tier. He led off well, drew a ton of walks, worked pitchers into deep counts, and as he related to me after one game, he claimed to "just know what’s coming at [him] as soon as it leaves the pitcher’s hand."
Subsequently, Blasi’s career stumbled. He played in Low-A Kane County the following season, but a slow year and an uptick in his strikeouts saw him left behind for a second season of Low-A ball when the other 2004 draftees were all moving up to High-A and AA ball.
Blasi eventually got to Stockton, but not before those same ex-teammates had largely moved up yet again, and with new draftees coming in to crowd the outfield (Mitchell, Johnson, Massaro, Sulentic, Cobb, Boyd etc) it was beginning to look like Blasi was going to be one of the forgotten minor leaguers who are quietly let go when they hit 25 or 26.
Fast forward to 2007, and the A’s outfield is wracked and ruined with injuries. Swisher down, Kotsay down, Bradley down. Buck goes up. Putnam goes up. Buck gets injured, Snelling comes in, Snelling gets injured, Two Buck Chuck Thomas gets traded, Bocachica can’t be added to the roster for several months, Denorfia comes in, Denorfia is out for the season, Herrera is sucking in High-A ball, Cust comes in but can’t field worth a damn…
And eventually, all the way down the system, someone says to Nick Blasi, "I don’t care that you’re only hitting .239 - you’re needed in Sacramento."
Talk about being set up for a fall… but Blasi hasn’t fallen. In fact, he’s doing exactly what he needed to do once given a legit shot at moving up the system - he’s raking.
Currently the former C’s outfielder is hitting .286 in 28 at bats of AAA ball, and though his stay there may be short-lived, he’s leaving a pretty significant mark while the sun shines - and wondering why his old locker in Stockton has been cleared out.
The promotion was more out of necessity than performance — Blasi, who played at Wichita State and is from Goddard, was batting .239 in his fourth season of A ball — but it doesn’t matter.
Blasi is in Triple-A. And, he was told, his locker stall at Stockton has been cleared out, so he assumes there’s no going back. "It’s a little confusing," Blasi said. "I’m not really sure what it means."
As a minor leaguer, Blasi understands he’s not supposed to be sure what anything means. It’s his job to keep his head down and play.
Recently, Blasi did a radio interview with a station in his home town of Wichita KS, where he talked about his career, his rapid rise, where he goes from here, and what he thinks of the A’s system.