Bloomquist enjoying Interleague Play
All-purpose reserve seeing more time at National League parks
NEW YORK -- Mariners all-purpose veteran Willie Bloomquist has such an uncertain future that he never looks beyond today.The northwest native becomes eligible for free agency at the end of the season, and another round of Interleague games in National League ballparks this summer is making him aware that the playing style in the Senior Circuit sure fits his game. "I love it," Bloomquist said. "Everyone is involved, whether it's the first inning or the last inning, whether you're playing or you are on the bench. You can come into the game at any time. It's a great brand of baseball, especially for a role player. The chances are good that you're going to be in the game every day."
Asked if he might have been born to be a National League player, Bloomquist said, "I always envisioned being an American League player, but it kind of looks like I have developed into a National League player."The designated-hitter rule does not exist in the NL, so managers use their reserves far more often than do their AL counterparts. "Willie is so valuable for us, an American League club; imagine what he would do for a National League club," said Mariners interim manager Jim Riggleman, who has two previous managerial stints, with the Cubs and Padres. "He is a very valuable guy, and if he were playing in the National League, he would find himself in a game every night, one way or another." For the past two weeks, the 30-year-old Bloomquist has been in the Mariners' lineup almost every night. He has started eight of Seattle's past 10 games, going 11-for-27 to raise his batting average from .152 on June 11 to .257 entering Wednesday night's series finale against the Mets at Shea Stadium. Bloomquist was at shortstop on Wednesday against the Mets. "I like Interleague," he said. "You see a bunch of different guys, teams you haven't seen. It's different. It's fun." After spending most of his time this season on the bench -- Bloomquist had just five at-bats between May 10 and June 7 -- he has blossomed into a daily contributor since Ichiro Suzuki moved from center field back to right field, his original position with the Mariners. "As a competitor, I want to play," Bloomquist said. "I wasn't raised to sit and watch. I was raised to be a competitor, and whether I'm doing well or not, I want to play. That's the way I will always be. It's a lot more fun to be in the action." "We are keeping Willie in there, finding more at-bats for him," Riggleman said. "He adds something to the lineup almost every night, and we're trying to keep him going, keep him sharp. He gives us energy." Bloomquist runs out every ball he hits, whether it's a popup, routine ground ball or line drive into a gap. "That's the way I was taught to play the game," Bloomquist said. "Basically, my dad told me, 'If you don't run everything out, just go back to the other dugout.' That pretty much says it all. He instilled that in me at a young age. "Even now, you just never know when that mind-set will come in handy." Bloomquist's hustle played a key role in the Mariners' series-opening victory over the Mets on Monday night. He came to bat in the second inning with two runners on and two outs and hit a routine grounder to third baseman David Wright, who dropped the ball, recovered and made a strong throw to first base. But Bloomquist beat it out, and Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez hit Johan Santana's next pitch over the fence in right-center field for the franchise's first grand slam. "The key to the inning was Hernandez's home run," Riggleman said after the 5-2 Seattle victory, "but Willie hustling on the ball he hit was another key. You tell guys all the time, 'When you hit a ground ball, you run hard.' It's human nature not to go as hard as you can, but he did and he beat it out." But for Bloomquist, running hard is second nature.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.