By Shannon Drayer
The transition of coaching staffs is just about complete with the Mariners announcing on Monday the additions of Howard Johnson (hitting), Rick Waits (pitching), Andy Van Slyke (first base), Mike Rojas (bullpen), John Stearns (third base) and Chris Woodward (infield).
On a conference call with the media, general manager Jack Zduriencik revealed that there could be one holdover from last year’s staff. Former hitting coach Dave Hansen could return, most likely as assistant hitting coach.
“There is a possibility Dave Hansen will remain,” Zduriencik said. “There are discussions going on right now. He certainly knows he has a position here should he decide to stay.”
Also possibly staying in the organization is Daren Brown, the former third-base coach and longtime Tacoma Rainiers manager. Brown is interviewing with the Reds for a position, but according to Zduriencik he is still under contract with the Mariners and will have a position if he decides to stay.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the staff is a mix of a few Lloyd McClendon guys and a good number of Mariners organizational people. McClendon likes what he sees in those he is not as familiar with, including Johnson and Waits.
“HoJo and I played against each other for a number of years,” he noted. “I know his competitive spirit and I know he knows what he is talking about. I was very impressed with the ideas he had moving forward and I think it really matched the same type of ideas I had.”
McClendon said Waits “really blew him away” in the interview.
“I walked away thinking this guy represented everything I wanted in a pitching coach,” he said.
I mentioned in the previous post that a number of people I talked to in Detroit lauded Van Slyke’s teaching abilities. There was some question if he was willing to get back into coaching after taking the last four years off, however. Evidently he did, as he was the one who contacted the Mariners first. McClendon is thrilled to have him on board.
“For me, Andy Van Slyke in all my years of baseball is probably the most impressive practice coach I have ever been around,” he said. “As far as getting guys prepared for the game, making guys better at their position? He made guys better.”
Woodward will have the opportunity to make guys better in the infield. He has spent a good amount of time with Brad Miller and Nick Franklin over the last season, including time at the big-league level in August. He has a good understanding of the challenges facing them as you can hear in this interview.
It is great to see the addition of a designated position coach. Miller and Franklin are young and have a good amount of ability but we saw mistakes last year, particularly from Franklin. Both came through the system fairly rapidly so this will give them the opportunity to get work they may have missed in the minors. Van Slyke will do the same for the outfielders.
In addition to the coaches named Monday, the Mariners announced that bullpen catcher Jason Phillips and batting practice pitcher Scott Budner will return.