Grudzielanek aims to reach milestone
Second baseman is within striking distance of 2,000 hits
KANSAS CITY -- Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek is eagerly anticipating his 2,000th hit.
"Absolutely, why wouldn't I?" Grudzielanek said. "Not many people have done that. Being in the game as long as I have and the success I've had over the years, it's definitely an awesome accomplishment, personally. Not many people can say that."
After going hitless in the series opener against the Seattle Mariners, he goes into Saturday night's game just two hits shy of the milestone. He would be the 18th active player and the 251st in history to reach 2,000.
It's been a long time since his first hit in the Majors, so long that Grudzielanek is fuzzy on the details.
"I have no ... I think it was a pinch-hit," he said. "I'm not sure about that. I can't remember that far back, I really can't. They asked me [about it] and I said, 'I think it was [against Mike] Remlinger,' but I wasn't even sure until they told me."
He was partially right. The hit did come off New York Mets left-hander Remlinger -- a double to center field -- when Grudzielanek was a rookie with the Montreal Expos.
But he wasn't a pinch-hitter. He entered the game during the top of the 10th inning, during a Mets' four-run rally, replacing Wil Cordero at shortstop. Grudzielanek can't remember why.
He whacked his double in the bottom half of the 10th, a scoreless inning as the Expos lost, 5-1, at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
That was 13 years and almost 2,000 hits ago.
"That's a lot of hits. I'm flabbergasted I've been in the game this long. I'm thankful. It's an accomplishment ... It's cherished," he said. "There's not a whole lot of guys out there with that many hits, and that play that long and put up those kind of numbers. So I'm proud of it."
Grudzielanek, 38, couldn't remember getting souvenir balls from any of his other milestone hits, including No. 1,000 on June 5, 2001, against Arizona's Robert Ellis when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I want to make sure I grab this 2,000th hit. I want that ball, that's for sure," he said.
Royals manager Trey Hillman had Grudzielanek, who hit .371 (33-for-89) in his previous 22 games, in the No. 5 spot on Friday night.
"It's tremendous, not only for him as a professional, but it's a bright spot for the Kansas City Royals and the position that we're in," Hillman said. "We're not where we want to be in the race -- hopefully, that'll improve -- but meantime, we've got something pretty cool happening to one of our veteran players."
After this, will it be on to 3,000 for Grudzielanek? He just laughed.
"Holy cow, I don't know if my family would let me do that," Grudzielanek said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.