Sept. 18, 2002
By Jim Street / MLB.com
SEATTLE, Wash. -- On a team that stresses versatility, the final 11 days of the regular season have special importance for Willie Bloomquist, who will make his first big league start in Thursday night's series finale against the Texas Rangers.
The organization decided in Spring Training to begin grooming the 24-year-old Bloomquist as an all-around player along the same lines as Mark McLemore. A middle infielder throughout his career, playing second base and shortstop, Bloomquist branched out this season, also playing third base, left field and right field for the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.
When asked Wednesday if there was anything particular that he would be looking at during the waning games of the season, manager Lou Piniella said, "I am more interested in seeing Bloomquist than anything else.
"I'm not sure where he'll play, but we'll get him out there somewhere."
Bloomquist, born in Bremerton, Wash., and a life-long Mariners fan, was a third-round draft choice in 1999 after spending three years at Arizona State. He was selected as the Pacific-10 Player of the Year in '99 and named first-team All-America by Baseball America.
His career since then has included stops in Everett (.287 in 42 games) in 1999, Lancaster, Calif. (.379 in 64 games) and Tacoma (.225 in 51 games) in 2000, San Antonio, Texas (.255 in 123 games) and back to Tacoma (.270 in 104 games) this season.
He hasn't shown much power (11 minor league home runs), but has speed and puts the ball in play.
"He's an athletic, hard-nosed player," said Rainiers manager Dan Rohn. "I don't think he will become a 20-home run guy in the Major Leagues, but he can become a .300 hitter, steal some bases and give you good defense. I see him as a gap hitter and gap is good."
Bloomquist made his first appearance for the Mariners in Tuesday night's game, grounding out to second base as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning.
"Every day, I just come out to the yard and try to be prepared," he said. "My only plan is to do the things that got me here and focus on the ball. There's only one ball, and that's the one you've got to catch, throw and hit. Just try and concentrate on that."