PEORIA, Ariz. — Here sat Willie Bloomquist, the Mariners’ all-everything utilityman, at a locker Tuesday morning that brimmed with gloves. He pounded his hand, over and over, into the one he was wearing.
What are you doing?
“I’m trying to find one right now that feels good,” he said, glancing up while continuing to pound away. “I’ve used the same glove for the last four years. It had a tear in it (in the pocket). They tried to fix it, but it was bad.
“So I sent it back to the (glove company). They re-did the whole inside. It came back, and it had a big bubble in the palm. It was like an ejecto-mitt. So I sent it back again, and I’m waiting to get it returned.
“In the meantime, I’m trying to find one that feels good.”
To see Bloomquist combatting annoyance as he searched for just the right glove is an encouraging sign.
He entered this camp as something of a question mark after undergoing season-ending surgery last August on his right knee. Could he, at age 37, hold up to the rigors of playing multiple positions?
It was a key concern.
The Mariners’ preferred roster construction requires a utility infielder capable of playing all four positions — especially shortstop. Club officials never wanted to carry both Brad Miller and Chris Taylor on the 25-man unit.
(An aside: The Miller/Taylor battle became moot on March 13 when Taylor suffered a broken bone in his right wrist on a foul ball. He is expected to miss another three-to-five weeks.
Even so, Taylor’s injury, which turned Miller into the starter, didn’t alter the Mariners’ need for someone capable of playing shortstop on a backup basis.)
Attention remained focused on Bloomquist, whom manager Lloyd McClendon nursed through a series of increasingly stringent tests to gauge the durability of that repaired knee.
Bloomquist chafed at the caution even as he understood the reasons for it. But he finally played shortstop Monday against the Angels in Tempe. All nine innings with no physical problems.
Equally important, there were no day-after problems Tuesday when he arrived at the Peoria Sports Complex.
“I’ve been doing simulated games at shortstop for most of the spring,” Bloomquist said. “If that helps him (McClendon) feel better, I’m happy for it. Let’s put it that way.
“I’m confident and know that I’m ready to be able to do it. I feel fine today after playing (Monday). He’s obviously being a little cautious. Understandably so. But all in all, I feel good.”
McClendon is nearly convinced.
“I’d like to see him at short a little bit more,” he hedged, “but I think he’s starting to get his legs under him. He looks healthy.”
Now…if Bloomquist can just find a glove he likes which, apparently, isn’t as easy as it might seem.
“We’re a little pickier,” he admitted, “because we know exactly what it’s supposed to be like. We have to catch balls that are harder and have more spin on them than guys in the average beer-league softball game.
“It’s got to be perfect. So…I don’t know. I’m in a little scramble trying to find the right one right now.”
He kept pounding away.