SCOTTSDALE - If Ty Blach is feeling any pressure to win a job this spring, it hasn't shown. Blach has had a smile on his face throughout camp, and some in the clubhouse have noted he is showing more of his personality than in the past. When reporters approached his locker during Friday's game, Blach reached up and pulled his cap into place.
"Howdy," he said.
Blach has good reason to be relaxed. He'll be on this staff in some role, whether it's in the rotation or the bullpen. The Giants had considered Blach as a potential solution to their lefty reliever woes, but team officials have backed off that plan a bit since the Tony Watson addition. Blach will focus on starting for now, and his debut was promising.
Blach threw the first Giants pitch of 2018, a strike to Jonathan Villar of the Brewers. In two innings, he allowed one hit and struck out two.
"It feels like I definitely belong here," Blach said. "I know my routine and the guys. I feel comfortable."
Because they have two off days before their seventh game of the season, it's likely that the Giants will skip their fifth starter at least once. It remains to be seen if that'll be Blach's role, but he's flexible enough to move to the bullpen for a week if the need is there. For now, he's ready to hold off the competition for his rotation spot.
Lefty Andrew Suarez was also impressive, striking out three in his two innings. Right-hander Tyler Beede and lefty Derek Holland are also vying for the job. The competition should be one of the better ones in camp, but Blach said he's not thinking about it much. Instead, he's focused on cleaning up minor issues that led to a dip in his numbers late last season.
Blach was sharp in his first eight starts last year after replacing Madison Bumgarner, posting a 3.08 ERA. He had a 5.64 ERA the rest of the way and was moved to the bullpen in September. Blach said he redistributed some weight in the offseason, building up his legs in a bid to stay strong throughout a long season. He's also tinkering with his slider in hopes of getting more swinging strikes. Blach admitted that bouncing back and forth was difficult at times last season, but he's ready for any role this year.
"I feel like mentally and physically I've put myself in a really good position to be able to have success no matter what role they put me in," he said.
--- The Giants wore Stoneman Douglas caps during today's game. Blach, who grew up near Columbine, and Suarez, who is from Florida, explained why it was such a special tribute.
--- The Giants lost to the Brewers 6-5. They committed six errors. Nick Hundley and Pablo Sandoval went deep, and Steven Duggar had a two-run double.
--- Jonah Arenado, Nolan's brother, played third base for the second half of the game. He had a single in his second at-bat.
--- On my Instagram page (pavlovicnbcs) there's a story with behind-the-scenes footage and photos from today's Cactus League opener.