GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Willie Bloomquist has played more than a thousand regular-season games in his 13-year Major League career, but that didn't stop Friday's Cactus League contest from being a little special for the Mariners veteran utility man.
After undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee last August, Bloomquist knew there were questions about how soon he could be back and whether he'd be ready to compete for a job again this spring. But the 37-year-old came out firing in his spring debut, going 2-for-2 and sprinting from first to home on a third-inning triple by Chris Taylor.
"It was internally a big day for me," Bloomquist said. "Everything this offseason threw at me, it meant something for me to get back out there. It felt great."
Bloomquist handled everything thrown at him again Friday, including a blistered one-hopper in the first inning that the second baseman turned into a double play and the challenge of running the bases full speed when Taylor laced his line drive to center after Bloomquist had singled to lead off the third.
"They gave me the little lecture before the game to stay 80 percent," Bloomquist said with a smile."Then go figure, you know that's going to happen, right? I wasn't thinking about it at all. I was just running. As far as the 80 percent, that didn't cross my mind. It felt great."
For Bloomquist, playing baseball has always been the easy part. And that's why he put himself through the difficult rehab regimen over the winter, doing everything possible to be ready now that the games are being played again.
"All the preparation in the offseason was about getting strong and not worrying about it," he said. "Between the lines, I'm not even thinking about it. Just go play. At the end of the day, it feels great. It was pretty cool to get back out there."
Manager Lloyd McClendon said it was good to see Bloomquist looking healthy and running without hesitation, though noting it's still a long haul. McClendon has tried to slow Bloomquist down this spring, but only waited until the third game to get him his first live action.
Bloomquist has pushed McClendon to let him play, but only because he thinks he's ready.
"I wouldn't call it lobbying," Bloomquist said. "I'm being honest with him and telling him how I feel. They're asking me, and I'm telling them. I feel great. I'm not going to lie. I certainly know how hard it was to get back to this point. There might be a day it doesn't feel good, and I'm going to tell them. But every day, it's felt great.
"With that, and him seeing me run the bases and everything, he trusts the fact I feel good, and he's going to let me play. I told him I do need to get some at-bats and I do need to prepare for the season. I understand about easing into things, but I have a season to get ready for, too. That's the important thing."