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New acquisitions build foundation for Zduriencik’s club

Jack Cust

By Michael Simeona, MyNorthwest.com intern

Minutes after announcing the signing of 32-year-old DH Jack Cust (above) to a 1-year, $2.5 million contract, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik joined Friday’s Kevin Calabro show to weigh in on the recent acquisitions made by the club.

Cust became a free agent last week after the Oakland Athletics, his former team, did not offer him a contract. He hit .272 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs in 112 games for the Athletics last season.

Zduriencik is excited to have a power hitter such as Cust at a position where home runs were seemingly tough to execute last season.

Zduriencik on Cust: “Jack has got terrific power. He’s a very experienced player and he brings a plate discipline to the ballclub I think, which is essential. He’s known for his strikeouts, but again, here’s a fresh start for Jack. We’ve had a few conversations over time with his agent and he’s always really, really liked Seattle as a possible destiny. As soon as he came available his agent Bobby Barad called me and we had a good dialogue and here he is, so now he’s a member of our ballclub.”

Will Cust become the everyday DH now, and does this mean the end for Milton Bradley?

Zduriencik: “Well that’s not true, I mean I think that I could see where someone would feel that way, but everyday DH? I mean there (are) 162 games so I think the primary DH might be a better way of saying it. Milton will get some opportunities (at DH). What I’d love to do, and what I’m hearing is that Milton’s working real hard this winter. He’s in good shape. He’s healthy. He’s looking forward to coming back and contributing to the ballclub and he can do that in several ways.”

Miguel OlivoReportedly, the Mariners signed veteran catcher Miguel Olivo (left) to a two-year $7 million contract, returning to his former team. While the team has yet to officially announce the deal, Zduriencik explained the philosophy behind the move.

Zduriencik: “Let me put it this way that deal has not been 100 percent consummated, but I will just speak to the philosophy of it. I think that when you look at last year going with two young catchers was very difficult. It’s a strenuous position – it’s going to require several guys during the course of the year to be there. The fact that we’re going to have some young pitchers on this staff, and the fact we even have young pitchers on our staff – we made it clear that we need a veteran presence back here.”

Earlier this week, Zduriencik called out the younger players on the team who weren’t taking their job as seriously as they should have last season. When asked whether or not he was trying to send a message to ‘fire up’ the young players, Zduriencik didn’t back down.

Zduriencik: “Well I think it is what it is. I think it’s the reality of the situation that we’re in. We have a nice group of young players we’ve got. We’re going to have a nice group of players coming for the next few years, and young players have to understand what it takes to be a major league player. I’ve had personal meetings, one-on-one meetings right the last weekend of the season with several of them and let them know what was expected. You know this isn’t, to use the term, ‘you’re not on scholarship’. It’d be disappointing if I sat across from you next spring and said ‘congratulations you’re headed to Tacoma’? When your heart is set on playing here in Seattle, and really that is up to you to determine.

“When you have young kids with talent you understand it takes a little while to be a big league player but it also takes a great degree of preparation, and that’s the message that I want delivered.”

You can listen to the entire interview with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, including whether or not he plans on seeing Dustin Ackley on the big league ball club next spring, right here.