Seasoned infielder Bloomquist to serve as mentor

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.comDecember 6, 2013 

It’s a different Willie Bloomquist, in some ways, who is returning to the Seattle Mariners on a two-year deal after spending the past five seasons with three other clubs.

He’s older, sure. (Now 36.) But the Bremerton native is also more accepting of his projected role as a utility player after often chafing under those constraints from 2002-08 before departing as a free agent.

“Early in your career,” Bloomquist said, “you’re not quite sure what you’re capable of doing. I’d never gone out and played every day, (never) had that opportunity.

“Over the past five years in Kansas City and Arizona, I’ve gotten that opportunity to play on a more regular basis. I’ve figured out what I can and can’t do. I think it’s made me a better player.

“(I) realize the Mariners are not signing me for my power numbers. They’re signing me for what I do between the lines from an on-base standpoint, playing defense standpoint and a versatility standpoint.”

The Mariners are paying $5.8 million over the next two years for those multiple standpoints in a deal confirmed Thursday after Bloomquist passed the requisite physical examination.

They also hope he can play a leadership role in a youthful clubhouse.

“This is a very young and talented team,” Bloomquist said. “The fact I’m a little bit older and have been around a little bit, I might be able to … help these guys reach their full potential.”

Bloomquist said he turned down other offers in order to return to the Mariners, who selected him in the third round of the 1999 draft. He is now a 12-year veteran with a .271 average and .320 on-base percentage.

He insists he’s healthy after two broken bones in his left hand limited him to 48 games last season with Arizona.

“I feel great,” he said. “I feel 100 percent (healthy) … I took a 94 mph fastball to the hand (from Washington reliever Tyler Clippard) and broke a couple of bones in my hand. That’s how I missed the majority of my time.”

The injury forced Bloomquist to miss two months, but he returned Aug. 28 and batted .343 in 26 games over the remainder of the season.

“At this stage of my career,” he said, “I have no hidden agendas. I’m just really excited about having a couple of years to make a difference in Seattle.

“I know in talking with Jack (Zduriencik, the general manager), he still has some stuff up his sleeve that is going to make us a better team.

“With the moves that are in the future, that have to be made still, and with what they have, with a good one-two punch at the top of the rotation, (if) we get going in the right direction, we could be a dangerous team.”

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