Blash, Jankowski secure roster spots

Outfielders will assume bench roles to start the season

Blash, Jankowski secure roster spots

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres will break camp with five outfielders on the big league roster, as prospects Jabari Blash and Travis Jankowski were told Saturday morning that they'd made the club. Both will assume bench roles at the start of the season.

Blash, a Rule 5 Draft pick, offers prodigious power (with a high strikeout rate) and could be a late-game pinch-hitting threat, specifically against left-handers. Jankowski, meanwhile, was selected for his speed and defense.

"There was a lot of really good competition in camp this year," said Jankowski, who is ranked No. 7 on the club's Top 30 Prospects list. "Obviously I'm happy with the decisions, but there's a lot of guys who are well deserving of this spot, so it's an honor. A lot of hard work has paid off."

Said Blash, the No. 16 prospect: "I feel comfortable, I'm confident and I'm excited. There are good things to come."

The inclusion of two outfield-only players on the bench comes as a bit of a surprise. But given the stark differences in their skill sets, it's certainly not a shock.

Manager Andy Green said Jankowski will pinch-run and occasionally serve as a defensive replacement. Blash meanwhile, will be given occasional starts. But for the most part, he'll serve as a power option off the bench late in games.

"It's something that I've never done, but it's always good to learn something new," Blash said. "I'm just glad to be here, and I have no problem with that if that's my role."

Blash has already developed a devoted following on social media, with Padres fans referring to his mammoth home runs as "Blashtoffs" and referring to themselves as being "on the Blashwagon." Unlike Jankowski, who made his big league debut last season, Blash has yet to appear in a Major League game.

Blash's chances of cracking the roster were boosted by his status as a Rule 5 Draft pick. If he doesn't remain on the 25-man roster for the entire season, the Padres must to offer him back to his original team, the Mariners.

Blash received the news before Saturday's exhibition against the White Sox and immediately headed to the dugout to call his mother in the Virgin Islands.

"After she stopped screaming, she could process it," Blash said of the conversation. "It was definitely a good conversation."

With backup first baseman Brett Wallace (sore right foot) fully healthy and Christian Bethancourt named as the backup catcher, that leaves one bench spot still to be determined. Alexi Amarista, Adam Rosales and Jemile Weeks are all in competition for a super-utility job. Jose Pirela, who doesn't offer the same versatility, will begin the season in the Minors.

Bethancourt's inclusion comes as no surprise. Fellow backstop Austin Hedges put forth a monster spring, hitting .375/.436/.656. But with at-bats likely to be scarce at the big league level, Hedges will begin the year at Triple-A El Paso.

"He's earned a Major League roster spot, he's earned the opportunity to be here," Green said. "It's just not yet. It's not a never. It's: Your day's coming, go play every day, keep getting better, keep progressing, and you're going to be a huge part of what we do going forth in the future."

Green was quick to point out that a big league roster is an evolving entity, and the players who don't make the club could very well find themselves in San Diego in the very near future.

"You're going to see these guys in uniforms at Petco Park this year," Green said. "Whether they're here first or they're here second, the reality is, it's who impacts us for the longest time that really matters. ... April 4 is big to everybody, because it's fun. But it's not the defining moment of the season."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.