Just a few short years ago, Hank Blalock stood among the giants of the game. Now he is fighting for his major league career.
When the Rays signed two-time All-Star Hank Blalock to a minor league contract, they gave a 29-year-old player another shot to reclaim a career that was once one of the most promising in the Majors.
Blalock finished the 2005 season as one of baseball's rising stars, batting .263 while belting 25 home runs and 92 RBI. It was Blalock's third straight season with at least 25 homers and 90 or more runs batted in.
After slumping in the 2006 season, various injuries in 2007 and 2008 (including a torn hamstring and a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome) robbed Blalock of playing time.
In 2009, Blalock returned to the Texas Rangers lineup, moving to first base and for the first time since his last All-Star appearance. He began to jack the ball out of the park like old times, pounding 25 homers for the Rangers last season.
Even though his power returned, Blalock had his worst performance at the plate since his rookie season, batting just .234 on the year with a career worst .277 on-base percentage.
His injury history and struggles at the dish prompted the Rangers to allow him to test free agency, where he received a pretty icy reception.
When asked why he chose to come to the Rays, he told the Tampa Tribune, "Well, I didn't have any other choice. So that's why I'm here."
The signing of Blalock provides some competition for Pat Burrell for the DH spot and gives the Rays some depth at first and third.
It's expected that Blalock likely will platoon with Burrell for the first portion of the season.
Personally, I don't blame the Rays for taking a flyer on this power hitter. He's cheap ($925,000 with the chance to make another $350,000 if he reaches incentives), he gives the Rays a left handed bat, and he might be able to push Pat Burrell to reach his potential with the Rays.
Sometimes a change of scenery can do a lot for a player, and if the Rays are forced to move Carlos Pena, Blalock could be a solution that eases the loss.