Seattle benefits from platoon in center
But at-bats are sacrificed from hot hitters Bloomquist, Reed
SEATTLE -- Utility man Willie Bloomquist has been on a quiet tear over his past 12 games, getting hits in 10 of them and going 14-for-38 (.368) overall.Likewise, outfielder Jeremy Reed is hitting .375 over his past 15 games while raising his season average to .304.
These are all good trends for a Seattle offense that ranks third to last in the Major Leagues in runs, but there's a catch.With the current Mariners' lineup rotation, Reed and Bloomquist have been forming a platoon in center field. So while it has made for consistent production from the position as a whole, it also means that one of the productive hitters is normally sitting on the bench. Reed has the highest batting average among the team's regular players and is tied with Bloomquist for the highest on-base percentage at .364. Some nights -- like Monday when Bloomquist started at shortstop -- the Mariners have both in the lineup, but often one starts in center while the other might come in as a pinch-hitter later in the game. Manager Jim Riggleman said it's tough keeping a hot bat on the bench. "The center-field situation allows them to both play a fair amount," he said. "We'll get 'em games as much as we can when they're not in center field in Willie's case. But that's just the nature of it ... I don't think there's any real answer to it." Part of the issue, as Riggleman pointed out, stems from the fact that the Mariners have cemented starters around the infield, where Bloomquist could fill in. The same could be said for the outfield, where Raul Ibanez and Ichiro Suzuki are also firmly cemented in left and right. But even though center field is not an everyday job right now for Reed, he is getting consistent at-bats after starting the season in the Minor Leagues and fluctuating in and out of the lineup at times. "Anytime that you're not in the lineup three or four days in a row, it becomes a lot tougher," Reed said. He also said he's not frustrated with the current situation, even though his hot hitting gets consistent days off with the platoon system. "That's a situation that I've been in before, so I know what that's like," he said. "I try to think of it as a positive, in the fact that that's a day that I can get some rest and maybe come in late in the game and stay in tune. But it's not something that really bothers me right now." And while these two provide consistent offensive and defensive production in center, Riggleman is still waiting for other offensive players to snap out of their funks and find similar success. "Our offensive game has not really taken off the way we think it can," he said. "But on the upside that means there's a lot of good baseball left in this club to get back to toward their normal numbers, and we just hope that we do that."
Jesse Baumgartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.