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4/9/2014 10:28 P.M. ET

Outfielder Blanco a key cog off bench for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gregor Blanco started one of the Giants' first nine games. Yet he has remained integral to the team's daily strategy.

Blanco has settled into his role as the replacement for left fielder Michael Morse, who played nine innings just once in the Giants' first eight games. Due to manager Bruce Bochy's lingering concern over Morse's right calf, Blanco has entered games as early as the fifth inning and played in all but one of San Francisco's first eight games. Bochy has tried to strike a balance between providing the formidable Morse enough at-bats to influence the outcome and getting him off the field to preserve his health.

Blanco's happy to be part of Bochy's plan.

"I've been doing this all my career, pretty much," said Blanco, who appeared in 141 games in each of the previous two seasons. "I know if we're winning or something happpens in the fifth or sixth inning that I have to be ready to play for Michael."

The genuinely humble Blanco doesn't obsess over his playing time -- or lack of it.

"I'm honored," he said Wednesday. "I'm honored to contribute, the way we're doing it right now. Whatever it takes."

'Stick tribute to include former manager Craig

SAN FRANCISCO -- Dusty Baker led the Giants to prolonged success and became the winningest manager in the franchise's San Francisco history. Bruce Bochy separated himself from all other San Francisco managers by steering the team to World Series triumphs in 2010 and 2012.

Yet it could be suggested that Roger Craig, who'll appear at Thursday's "Farewell to the 'Stick" ceremony before the Giants-D-backs game at AT&T Park, was the most important manager in San Francisco history.

"I could not argue that," said Bob Brenly, the D-backs broadcaster who caught for the Giants through most of the 1980s. "Along with [general manager] Al Rosen, they came in there and changed the culture."

Craig revived the ballclub at a crucial period. He and Rosen took control in September 1985, late in the team's lone 100-loss season in history. But the Giants improved to 83-79 in 1986, ended a 16-year drought by capturing the National League West title in 1987 and broke a 27-year spell by winning the pennant in 1989.

Craig hastened his success by silencing the players' rampant complaints about Candlestick Park, which was cold, windy and inhospitable. He reasoned that since performing at Candlestick was so uncomfortable, the Giants should make it a home-field advantage. That they did, compiling a .590 winning percentage (239-166) from 1986-90, Craig's first five seasons with San Francisco.

Brenly cited Craig's "Humm-Baby attitude" and insistence that the team was never out of a ballgame, "which was in stark contrast to some of the teams I played for earlier in my career. It was just a completely different mindset, starting from the first day of Spring Training. And Roger was a huge part of that, with his positivity and all the other things he brought to the table. His attitude went a long way toward turning things around."

Brenly said that Craig used authority effectively and won people over with the sheer force of his personality.

"Roger just had that presence," Brenly said. "He was a big man, had a big voice and a cowboy hat and a belt buckle and boots -- he stood out like a sore thumb in San Francisco. That's who he was. He accepted himself and that confidence that he had in his own knowledge of the game and how to get it across to the players. You just didn't question it."

Throughout Thursday's game, fans will be treated to entertainment centered on the Giants' 1960-99 tenure at Candlestick Park, which hosted its final major sporting event last December when the 49ers' season ran out. Craig -- along with his football namesake, running back Roger Craig -- will be honored on the field before the game, along with other Giants and 49ers who called the 'Stick home. Those expected to attend include Orlando Cepeda, Jeffrey Leonard, Dave Dravecky, J.T. Snow, Tiny Felder, Rich Murray, Brent Jones, Joe Staley, Dan Skuta, Bruce Miller, McLeod Bethel-Thomson, Vernon Davis, Aldon Smith, C.J. Spillman, Bruce Miller, Guy McIntyre, Dennis Brown, Frank Nunley and Keena Turner.

Bochy: Contract not a distraction to Sandoval

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he has talked to Pablo Sandoval to make sure the third baseman's contract situation isn't burdening him mentally.

Bochy said Sandoval's attitude and outlook remain sound, though general manager Brian Sabean said during a CSN Bay Area interview Tuesday that the club had halted contract discussions with the two-time All-Star.

Bochy indicated that Sandoval's performing better than the .161 batting average he took into Wednesday's game suggested.

"I like his approach right now," Bochy said. "He's seeing pitches and showing a little discipline."

Sandoval, whose three-year, $17.15 million contract expires after this season, easily could become distracted by his impending free agency.

"You hope it doesn't," Bochy said. "There are times when it affects a player. They have to understand that it's part of the business of baseball."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.