Can Kyle Blanks Protect Adrian Gonzalez in the San Diego Padres Lineup?

Darren FeeneyCorrespondent IApril 6, 2010

PHOENIX - APRIL 05:  Kyle Blanks #88 of the San Diego Padres is congratulated by teammate Will Venable #25 after hitting a solo home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of the Opening Day major league baseball game at Chase Field on April 5, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Diamondbacks defeated the Padres 6-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With one out left in the top of the ninth inning in Monday’s season opener against the Diamondbacks, Adrian Gonzalez and Kyle Blanks were not satisfied.  

Trailing 6-1, the afternoon appeared all but squandered with little positive to take into game two Tuesday. 

That changed when Gonzalez stepped to the plate.

Gonzalez, the smooth and effortless-swinging lefty, sent a Bob Howry delivery to the opposite field bleachers in left, but that would not be all the Padres took away offensively.

Blanks, in his best Adrian impression, sent an absolute blast over the center field catwalk in the first game of his first full season with the club. 

Nonetheless, my Friar Faithful: We have a problem. 

The solo back-to-back home runs in the ninth were part of just a five-hit attack for the Padres.

Granted, they did face one of the best pitchers in baseball. Dan Haren was brilliant over seven innings of work—holding the Padres to three hits while striking out four and walking none.

Chase Headley was the only other bright spot offensively, adding the other two hits and RBI.

One game is a small sample size. With that said, it is apparent where the Padres' success will rest this year, the middle of the lineup.

Much of that weight rests on the shoulders of the 270-pound outfielder Blanks. It was uncertain whether Blanks or Headley would be penciled in the cleanup spot—and more importantly, anointed with the task of protecting Gonzalez.

Not only does Blanks have the first shot at the gig, he also appears fully ready to take on the role.

Gonzalez was the league leader in walks (119) last season, including 22 intentional passes.

Know why? 

Not because of his talent—but because of the lack of "talent" surrounding him.

Take a look around the league. All successful teams have a solid cleanup hitter to prevent the four-finger salute. 

Albert Pujols has Matt Holliday. Mark Teixeira enjoys the services of Alex Rodriguez. Chase Utley knows opposing teams would prefer him not be on base with Ryan Howard coming to the plate.

Blanks has a career .304 batting average to go along with 73 HR and 327 RBI on his five-season minor-league résumé.

Will Adrian Gonzalez stay in a Padres uniform past the July trade deadline?

Kyle Blanks’ productivity may be more of an answer to that question than you may think.