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Wednesday, March 28, 2007 - Page updated at 09:06 PM

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M's Notebook | Bloomquist nabs notice with baserunning skills

Seattle Times staff reporter

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Add a delayed steal of home plate to the latest list of achievements for this spring's one-man Mariners wrecking crew.

Willie Bloomquist pulled that feat off in the eighth inning of Seattle's 9-5 exhibition win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday. It was the second steal of the game and seventh of the spring for Bloomquist, who broke for the plate just as catcher Damian Miller threw to second in an attempt to nab Tony Torcato.

Bloomquist slid home safely ahead of the relay back to the plate and finished 2 for 4 with a walk and three runs scored, raising his batting average to .452 and his on-base percentage to .500. Both are among the best in the Cactus League. His 12 runs, 19 hits and seven consecutive steals are also tops on his team — including the theft of home.

"I've done it before, when it's like that," Bloomquist said of the delayed steal of home. "But never straight, like with a pitcher in the windup, doing it Jackie Robinson style. I haven't done it like that."

Bloomquist insists he isn't focusing too heavily on base-stealing this spring compared to previous years. The only difference, he added, are the opportunities on the bases.

"I'm just getting on base more," he said. "I like to run, so when I get on base, that's what I do. I've just been fortunate to get on base more than usual. So, the more I get on, the more I'm going to steal."

Bloomquist played six positions for the team last season, hitting .247 with 15 runs batted in, 16 steals and 36 runs in 251 at-bats. He shortened his swing this offseason, hoping it gives him a better chance of hitting the ball hard and finding the holes for more hits.

"It's still a work in progress," he said. "But I'm always trying to solidify things."

What Bloomquist has solidified to this stage is another year as the team's primary backup at several infield and outfield positions. Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said Sunday versatility is something he prefers when forming a bench, and Bloomquist remains a key.

"The first thing I look for in filling a role is a player being versatile," Hargrove said. "If you can fill that with one or two players then you can really look more specifically at needs you have off the bench. And we're fortunate in having Willie Bloomquist, who's about as versatile a player as there is in baseball today."

Foppert released

The Mariners officially closed the book on the Randy Winn trade of two years ago by releasing pitcher Jesse Foppert on Sunday. Foppert was acquired from the San Francisco Giants, along with catcher Yorvit Torrealba, in exchange for Winn at the July trade deadline in 2005.

But Foppert, 26, once a top prospect, never regained his form after undergoing ligament-transplant surgery in his elbow before the deal. Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said at the time that he knew he was taking a risk.

Felix's longest outing

Mariners starter Felix Hernandez, almost certain to be on the mound for opening day, battled the Brewers for five innings in his longest outing of the spring. Hernandez yielded four runs — three earned — including a solo homer by Geoff Jenkins, but also struck out six and didn't walk anybody.

"I missed a couple of fastballs on the outside part of the corner," he said. "I don't know if I'm opening up my body too quick. But it was just my fastball. All of my other pitches were working."

Hernandez said he was mainly concerned with throwing strikes and didn't care as much that some of the balls got hit. He tried to get a hit in the third inning, but wound up grounding out to the shortstop against Brewers starter Ben Sheets.

But the pitcher made up for it somewhat it the fourth inning, laying down a nice sacrifice bunt to move a runner over to second. Hernandez has always liked hitting and wants to show plate prowess, but wasn't too sure about his bunting skills.

"I don't know, I've only done it twice," he said with a laugh. "Once today and once last year during interleague play."

Notes

Raul Ibanez hit his team-leading third homer of the spring for Seattle and also added a two-run double to cap a four-RBI day.

• Mariners first baseman Richie Sexson continues to struggle at the plate, going 0 for 3 Sunday and 2 for 30 on the spring.

• It was a rough day for Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima, drilled on the back of the helmet by Brewers starter Ben Sheets on the first pitch of the second inning. Johjima stumbled groggily around home plate before being tended to by Seattle's training staff.

He remained in the game, took first base and scored on a sacrifice fly by Rey Ordonez. But it was all downhill in the bottom of the frame as Craig Counsell stole the first of two bases by Milwaukee that inning.

Moments later, with runners at the corners, Tony Gwynn — son of the Hall of Fame inductee of the same name — broke for second for another successful steal.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8278 or gbaker@seattletimes.com

Sunday's box score

Seattle Milwaukee
AB R H BI AB R H BI
Ichiro cf 4 0 3 2 Weeks 2b 3 0 1 0
AJones pr-cf 1 1 0 0 OChavez ss 2 0 1 0
Bloomquist 3b 4 3 2 0 Hardy ss 3 0 0 0
Ibanez lf 4 1 2 4 Rottino 1b 2 0 0 0
Torcato pr-lf 1 0 1 0 Hart rf 2 0 0 0
Sexson 1b 3 0 0 0 Clark rf 2 0 0 0
Morse ph-1b 2 0 0 0 Fielder 1b 3 2 2 0
Johjima c 1 1 0 0 Miller c 1 0 0 0
Burke c 2 0 1 0 Estrada c 3 1 1 0
Lopez 2b 3 0 0 0 DAnderson lf 1 0 1 0
Betancourt ss 2 0 1 0 Jenkins lf 3 1 2 2
Reed rf 5 1 2 0 Iribarren 2b 1 0 0 0
ROrdnz ss-2b 3 1 1 1 Counsell 3b 3 1 1 1
FHernandez p 1 0 0 0 Meyers p 0 0 0 0
Broussard ph 1 1 1 1 Capellan p 0 0 0 0
Thomas p 0 0 0 0 Braun ph 0 0 0 0
Woods p 0 0 0 0 Cordero p 0 0 0 0
Saunders ph 1 0 1 0 Gwynn cf 4 0 2 1
White p 0 0 0 0 Sheets p 0 0 0 0
Aquino p 0 0 0 0
Gross ph 1 0 0 0
Hackman p 0 0 0 0
Graffanino 3b 2 0 0 0
Totals 38 9 15 8 Totals 37 5 11 4
Seattle 012 203 010 9
Milwaukee 030 101 000 5
E — Johjima, Bloomquist, Estrada, Hackman. DP — Seattle 2, Milwaukee 1. LOB — Seattle 7, Milwaukee 6. 2B — Reed, Ibanez, Burke, Estrada, Fielder, DAnderson. HR — Ibanez, Broussard, Jennkins. SB — Torcato, Bloomquist 2, Counsell, Braun, Gwynn. CS — Suzuki, Saunders. S — FHernandez. SF — ROrdonez.
Mariners IP H R ER BB SO
FHernandez, W 5 6 4 3 0 6
Thomas 1 2 1 1 0 0
Woods 1 2 0 0 0 1
White 2 1 0 0 1 0
Brewers IP H R ER BB SO
Sheets, L 3 1/3 7 5 5 2 2
Aquino 1 2/3 0 0 0 0 1
Hackman 1 3 3 1 0 0
Meyers 1 1 0 0 0 0
Capellan 1 3 1 1 0 1
Cordero 1 1 0 0 0 1
HBP — by Sheets (Johjima). WP — Capellan. T — 2:40. A.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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