by Mark Harris
PEORIA — San Diego Padres outfielder Jabari Blash may not be a household name, but he’s smashing his way onto spring training leaderboards.
Blash is batting .269, but it is his power that has jumped off the stat sheet. His 19 RBIs are tied for first in the majors and his seven home runs are tied for second.
And it required just one small tune-up to improve his swing.
“I came in with a small step back pretty much, which just helps me get on time more often and see the pitches a little better,” Blash said.
The technique was suggested to him last season. It is when hitters step back with their back leg and then step forward with their front leg to maximize bat speed.
It has made his swing more efficient.
“In the past, I’ve usually had trouble with the pitches in. I have long arms so it takes a little bit more work to get there,” Blash said. “With the adjustment I’ve made it actually made my swing a lot shorter and a lot quicker and I’ve been able to get to a lot of pitches inside this spring versus previous years.”
Clearly the small adjustment has worked because after spending most of his career in the minors, Blash likely will make the Padres’ 2017 Opening Day roster, especially with fellow outfielder Alex Dickerson out three to four weeks with a back injury.
“It’s definitely exciting with Opening Day lurking so soon,” Blash said. “I’m just hoping and continuing to play well and see what happens.”
Blash did play on Opening Day with San Diego last season, but couldn’t consistently stay in the lineup.
The 27-year-old played in just 38 games with the Padres and hit .169 with three home runs. He also struggled to get on base, recording a 40.5 percent strikeout rate in his 84 plate appearances in 2016.
That relegated Blash to Triple-A El Paso for 62 games. For now, Blash is all about enjoying his remarkable spring training.
“The success (has been the best part),” Blash said. “I have a job, coming in every day working with the guys.
“When you’re doing well it feels great.”