Bloomquist heads home, reluctantly
Utilityman wanted chance to return to action this season
SEATTLE -- Willie Bloomquist and the Mariners went their separate ways on Wednesday, possibly forever.While the team went to Anaheim to begin its final road trip of the season, a three-city, 11-game journey, Bloomquist returned to his Peoria, Ariz., home to rejoin his family and continue his recovery from a strained right hamstring suffered on Aug. 9 while running to first base. This is not the way the Northwest-born-and-raised Bloomquist envisioned the final weeks of the season to play out. "I wanted to get back out on the field and play again," he said. "I thought I could, and still think I can, but it's out of my hands now." Any possibility that the career-long Mariners player would return this season ended last week, when he was transferred him from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. He would not be able to play now even if the injured hamstring becomes 100 percent healthy, and with him becoming eligible for free agency at the end of the season, he might have played his final game with his hometown team. He will remain in Arizona for the remainder of the season and continue his rehab program at the Mariners' Spring Training facility in Peoria. "I have been jogging for a few days now and could start running very soon," he said. "I really thought I would be ready to play again with a week or 10 days left in the season." When the Mariners expanded the roster the first two days of this month, promoting non-40-man roster players Justin Thomas, Luis Valbuena and Matt Tuiasosopo, they had to create two openings. So they transferred Bloomquist and Mike Morse from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL. Players on the 60-day DL do not count on the 40-man roster. Bloomquist said he tried to talk his way out of being moved to the 60-day DL. "They brought it up to me, saying they were thinking about doing it, and I told them I didn't want that to happen because I thought I would be ready to play a few games," Bloomquist said. "I wanted an opportunity to come back and play, if I could. "I think they understood where I was coming from but were worried that my leg wouldn't quite be healthy enough. The bottom line is that I wanted to be out there, and I was very, very disappointed with their decision. There were other options." One of them was to transfer left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard to the 60-day. Bedard has not thrown a pitch since July 4 because of a mysterious left shoulder ailment and appears unlikely to throw another pitch this season. Even if he has a series of discomfort-free throwing sessions, he probably would not have enough time to get game-ready before the season finale on Sept. 28. "I told [general manager Lee Pelekoudas], 'you're my boss and you will do whatever you want to do anyway, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with it,'" Bloomquist said. It's possible that Bloomquist has played his final game for the Mariners. He is known as a gamer, and if he departs via free agency, he didn't want his long career with the organization to end on the DL. Regardless, he hasn't closed the door to possibly returning to Seattle in 2009. "Obviously, in the situation I'm in now, I won't get an opportunity to play again this season, but it doesn't mean I'll hold a grudge against the organization," he said. "If that's the deciding factor in what happens during the offseason, then I have problems. I'm disappointed and have expressed my disappointment, but that is not going to be the deciding factor if he wants me to come back here or not." Bloomquist, born in Bremerton, Wash., and a graduate of South Kitsap High in Port Orchard, was selected in the third round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft out of Arizona State. A middle infielder at the beginning of his career, he has developed into one of the best all-around players in the Major Leagues, starting at seven different positions last season and six positions this year, batting .279 in 71 games. Overall, he has a .280 average with six home runs and 98 RBIs in his career and is the latest of 22 Mariners with an inside the park home run. His came on June 25, 2007 against the Astros in Houston. Bloomquist also has a grand slam on his resume. That came on July 13, 2003, against the Devil Rays at Safeco Field. It was his first Major League home run, becoming only the second player in franchise history whose first home run was a grand slam. He still remembers it well. "It was the bottom of the first inning and Rob Bell was pitching," he said. "The count was 3-and-1, and he threw me a fastball." Bloomquist even recalled that the previous pitch "was a changeup right down the middle, but it was called a ball. I could hear [Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella] yell, 'Where the [heck] was that pitch?'" Bloomquist went 2-for-5 that day and drove in a still career-high six runs in the Mariners' 13-2 victory.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.