MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke agrees with the comparison some observers have offered for recently called-up catcher Martin Maldonado, a sensational defender with a strong arm and occasional pull power.
He's a bit like Henry Blanco, now 40, and still playing for the D-backs. Blanco played for the Brewers from 2000-01. Before that, Roenicke coached him in the Dodgers' Minor League system.
"I go way back with Henry. I saw him when he was a real good third baseman," Roenicke said.
That's true -- Blanco didn't convert to catching until 1996, after the Dodgers decided he probably would not hit enough to play third base in the big leagues. Roenicke said Blanco could have won a Gold Glove at third had he continued at that position.
Instead, he became a plus-defender behind the plate. Blanco is currently in his 15th Major League season.
"Henry had as good an arm as anybody," Roenicke said. "A little quicker release than Maldonado does, but 'Maldy' probably has a little more arm strength. They are both great blockers. Henry is a very smart guy calling a game. We'll have to see with Maldy how that goes once he gets comfortable with everything. But, yeah, there are some comparisons there."
The Brewers promoted Maldonado on May 29, after regular catcher Jonathan Lucroy broke his right hand. Entering Saturday's start against the Padres, Brewers pitchers were 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA with Maldonado behind the plate, he had thrown out two of three would-be base stealers and had batted .214 with two home runs and six RBIs in 10 games.
Maldonado delivered a big hit in Friday's win, a three-run home run. He nearly hit a second homer, only to see a long fly ball hook just foul.
"Defensively, he's very confident. That wasn't a question," Roenicke said. "We knew, based on last year, what kind of defensive player he was, and last year he had a nice offensive year [at Triple-A], in really his first year of getting 400 at-bats. I think offensively here, he's not an automatic out, as we've seen. He's not going to be a [Lucroy], but he does so well defensively that you want him out there, and whatever he gives you offensively is huge."