04/19/08 5:09 PM ET
Blanco proud of first start with Braves
Outfielder eager to show Cox, teammates that he can play
By Jon Cooper / Special to MLB.com
The 24-year-old native of Caracas, Venezuela, grew up watching the great Andres Galarraga, who was known as much for his endearing smile and indomitable spirit as he was for his powerful bat and smooth glove. Now, Blanco is playing for the same team and on the same field as "The Big Cat" once did.
Saturday afternoon made it two starts in a row. And Blanco is not just going through the motions. He's performing.
In his first Major League start on Friday night against the Dodgers, Blanco had his first career multi-hit game and his first Major League RBI, which turned out to be the deciding run in Atlanta's 6-1 win.
"It felt really good, my first start in the big leagues," said Blanco, who made the club thanks to an impressive Spring Training that saw him hit .326 with eight RBIs, a team-leading 11 walks and a .464 on-base percentage. "I was really excited. Everything worked out really good."
Blanco also performed on the defensive end, making an important running catch on a sinking line drive by Andre Ethier, with runners at first and second and nobody out.
"I know I am a good defensive player, and I just played my game," said Blanco, who was signed originally by the Braves as an undrafted free agent on July 10, 2000. "Every time I've got to catch the ball. That's my goal, to help the team to win."
That means playing any role Braves manager Bobby Cox wants -- pinch-hitter, pinch-runner and left field, where Blanco, primarily a center fielder, could end up platooning with Matt Diaz.
"I need to play games and show Bobby and show my teammates that I can play here," said Blanco.
"I still can't believe I'm here and playing with these guys," he added with a smile."Especially with Chipper Jones. He's going to be a Hall of Famer someday and for a manager like Bobby Cox. It's amazing to be here watching how those guys play and to play with them."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.