Infielder Alex Blandino signed a minor league deal with the Reds back in November but he will reportedly be attempting a move to the mound. Per Fernando Rayo of 8 Deportivo out of Nicaragua, the CAA client will be trying to become a knuckleballer (Links to Spanish-language X posts) and will report to Double-A. MLBTR has confirmed the report with the note that Blandino does not have an invite to major league camp at this time.
Blandino, 31, has 135 games of major league experience, which all came with the Reds over the 2018-2021 period. He played all four infield positions and the outfield corners, having hit .226/.339/.291 in 279 plate appearances. He played in the minors in 2022 with the Giants and Mariners but didn’t crack the majors. He played for Nicaragua during the 2023 World Baseball Classic in the spring but then didn’t sign elsewhere until the minor league deal with the Reds in November.
The move to the mound doesn’t come completely out of nowhere, as he has made five major league appearances as a pitcher. Those appearances even included a knuckleball, as highlighted here by this post on X by Pitching Ninja from 2018. In a 2021 appearance, Bladino’s fastball hit 90 mph, as relayed by Cut4 on X.
Those are a couple of intriguing elements that could perhaps give Blandino a better path back to the majors than as a light-hitting utility infielder. Knuckleballers are a unique breed and don’t always need strong velocity to succeed, but Blandino’s ability to hit 90 mph doesn’t hurt. But on the other hand, it’s unclear if he could maintain that kind of velocity while pitching on a regular basis over a full season.
For the Reds, there’s no harm in letting Blandino take a shot and see what happens. For fans of the knuckleball, it will be an exciting development to watch, especially with the pitch having largely disappeared from the majors since R.A. Dickey’s retirement.