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'Same butterflies' as Blanco eyes SF roster spot

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Being relegated to a substitute role would be fine with Gregor Blanco. From his perspective, there's no substitute for being a Giant.

Blanco, who spent 2012-16 with San Francisco before defecting to the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, is thrilled to have rejoined the Giants, though he faces considerable competition for a reserve outfielder's spot.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Being relegated to a substitute role would be fine with Gregor Blanco. From his perspective, there's no substitute for being a Giant.

Blanco, who spent 2012-16 with San Francisco before defecting to the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, is thrilled to have rejoined the Giants, though he faces considerable competition for a reserve outfielder's spot.

"I worked really hard in the winter to show that I can do it again," said the 34-year-old Blanco, who signed with the Giants after Arizona cut him loose into free agency. "I feel 100 percent. I feel like a kid again. It's kind of like 2012 again."

That's when Blanco delivered an electrifying Spring Training performance to overcome his non-roster invitee status and win a job with the Giants. He recorded a .333/.395/.423 slash line in 27 games while stealing 13 bases in 14 tries and scoring 14 runs.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Again a non-roster invitee, Blanco might have to generate similar production to separate himself from a glut of candidates for a backup outfielder's spot, including Steven Duggar, Gorkys Hernandez, Jarrett Parker, Austin Slater and Mac Williamson.

Blanco, who won World Series rings with the Giants in 2012 and '14, is ready for the challenge.

"I feel the same enthusiasm," Blanco said Monday, when he worked out informally with other position players. "I feel the same butterflies in my stomach. Excited, anxious."

May 1 looms as big day for upbeat Smith

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that May 1 is the target date for left-hander Will Smith to return to the big leagues following Tommy John elbow surgery.

Video: Smith on returning after missing the 2017 season

Smith, who missed all of last season while recovering from the extensive procedure, sounded upbeat as he described the recent stages of his recovery. He has thrown off a mound seven times with 75 percent effort. Smith likely will begin throwing to hitters after a few more bullpen sessions.

"Everything feels good," said Smith, who was expected to occupy a crucial bullpen role when the Giants acquired him from Milwaukee in August 2016. "Elbow feels good. Body's bouncing back fine. Everybody's happy in the training room with how it's going."

Bochy wants to check in with Sandoval

Bochy expects to have a man-to-man chat with Pablo Sandoval shortly after the switch-hitter arrives in camp. With Evan Longoria likely to start every day at third base, Sandoval won't receive much playing time unless he can establish himself as a reserve first baseman.

Video: Must C Clutch: Sandoval caps season with walk-off HR

Sandoval has appeared in 72 big league games at first base, starting 61. He started six games at first for the Giants last year.

"Pablo is aware of where we are," Bochy said. "I have to see where his head's at ... [and be] honest with him about what we're thinking."

• Bochy said that non-roster right-hander Jose Flores is expected to be the lone absentee due to travel complications when pitchers and catchers conduct their first workout Wednesday. Flores hails from Venezuela.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Gregor Blanco