The Royals scratched Willie Bloomquist from their lineup just before Monday afternoon’s game against Oakland. With good reason.
Bloomquist had just been traded to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named or cash considerations.
Bloomquist had been slated to play left field and bat second for the Royals. Instead, just a half hour before the game, he was in manager Ned Yost’s office being told of the trade.
A versatile player, Bloomquist was in his second season with the Royals and was batting .265 in 72 games with 10 doubles, a triple, three homers and 17 RBIs. He also stole eight bases in 13 tries.
Bloomquist got off to a slow start this season but, in 34 games since June 27, he was batting .311 (33-for-106). He had a nine-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter. He also was hitting .355 (27-for-76) with runners on base as opposed to just .191 (18-for-94) with the bases empty.
This season Bloomquist played all three outfield positions as well as second base and third. In the past, he’s also played first base and shortstop.
Because of his ability to play virtually any position and run well, Bloomquist has been considered a natural for a National League team because of the more frequent lineup changes, use of pinch-hitters and double switches.
Now he gets his chance with the NL’s Central Division leaders after playing only in the American League with Seattle and the Royals. However, because the deal came after Aug. 31, he will not be eligible for postseason play with the Reds even if a player is injured. To replace a disabled player in the postseason, a player must have in that organization prior to Aug. 31.
At 32 and in his ninth Major League season, Bloomquist was a positive influence among the younger players on the team. Last season, after signing as a free agent with the Royals, he also batted .265 in 125 games, stole 25 bases and set career highs in virtually every category. He played every position except pitcher and catcher.
Despite the rainouts on Sunday, the Royals apparently will oppose Cincinnati’s precocious left-hander, Aroldis Chapman, after all on Monday at Goodyear, Ariz. There was a chance that Chapman would be bumped out of the Reds’ plans as the pitching assignments got scrambled but the word is that he’ll throw against the Royals anyway.
A fellow Cuban defector, Royals catcher Brayan Pena got an advance look at Chapman last January in Miami. That’s where the lefty was tuning up for the showcases that resulted in his six-year, $30.25-million deal with the Reds. Pena caught him in a bullpen session.
“His fastball has got tremendous life and he’s got pretty good control,” Pena said. “But I don’t know if Monday if he’s going to try to overpower everybody or will try to show too much. But everybody in baseball knows he’s got good stuff and his youth is what’s probably going to hold him down a little bit because they’ve got a big investment in him. But I think he’ll end up in the starting rotation next year or at the end of this year.”
Pena also saw Chapman pitch some live batting practice.
“Kendry Morales was hitting against him in live BP and he was telling me that he hasn’t seen a left-hander that throws that hard in a while in the big leagues or the Dominican or in Triple-A,” Pena said. “He was pretty impressive -he’s probably 6-4 or 6-5 and he’s got pretty long arms and when he pitches, he looks like he’s giving you a handshake. That’s how you close you see him.”
Billy Butler, who’s on the travel list to make the trip, was eager to see Chapman.
“Last year during the season there were a couple of things on ESPN we saw all the time about him,” Butler said. “And all this offseason he was throwing bullpens and everything like that in scouting events for teams. The guy got a lot of money so I know he’s got a good arm. I’ve never seen him throw but he’s throwing Monday and hopefully I’ll get a chance to see what he’s got. Not many people throw 100 miles an hour, let alone a lefty, so I think he deserves everything he got. That’s an impressive arm.”
Noel Arguelles, the Royals’ own Cuban left-hander, said last week that he hadn’t yet met Chapman. But Pena said some of the Cuban-born players were planning a get-together on Sunday in the Phoenix area.