M’s call on Edgar Martinez as hitting coach to help struggling offense

Jun 20, 2015, 2:13 PM | Updated: 6:31 pm
The M’s have named Edgar Martinez hitting coach to help an offense ranked last in batting ave...
The M's have named Edgar Martinez hitting coach to help an offense ranked last in batting average. (AP)

Edgar Martinez is the new Mariners hitting coach, marking the first time since 2004 the greatest hitter in team history will be in the dugout as he hopes to help a struggling offense come back to life.

The Mariners announced Martinez as hitting coach Saturday in a surprising move, reassigning previous hitting coach Howard Johnson to the Mariners minor league system in the process.

The Mariners rank last in the MLB with a .233 batting average and 28th with 230 runs scored in 68 games. The hope is that Martinez, an owner of a .312 career average, two batting titles and five Silver Slugger Awards, can impart some of the knowledge that helped him become the greatest designated hitter of his generation.

Related: Shannon Drayer on Edgar Martinez’s return to the Mariners dugout

“Watching the club it had become apparent to me that we had reached the point that a change was necessary,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “I have had the opportunity to observe Edgar over the past several years at Spring Training and working with our young hitters in the minor leagues. He is passionate and knowledgeable about hitting and understands the work that needs to be done to be successful as a big league hitter.”

Though Martinez had been serving as a part-time roving instructor with the Mariners’ minor league teams this season, he hadn’t publicly shared a desire to return to the game on a full-time basis before Saturday’s announcement. He said the desire has been there, though.

“For the last three years I’ve been thinking that I want to get back into the game,” said Martinez, who mentioned that he had a newborn baby in his arms at the first Opening Day after he retired. “Now my kids are much older … I do think this is the right time. The team, I haven’t seen so much talent in the Mariners for a long time. We have the right talent, the right manager, coaching staff, so I think it’s a great opportunity and I’m excited about this opportunity.”

The challenge will be getting the offense to hit in a manner representative of that talent. Martinez has ideas to help, but will also take his time familiarizing himself with the players.

“I think I can help the guys just in terms of approach at the plate or being ready for the game, how to prepare, and with the mechanics in some cases. I think I have a lot to offer to the younger players, especially,” he said. “The guys that have been established for years, they’ve already been through the ups and downs and they know how to get out if they’re in a slump … It’s different with the younger players. Sometimes they don’t know what they’re doing at the plate and they don’t have an approach or a plan when they go to the plate.”

Positive reinforcement will be a big part of his coaching style, something he learned from Lee Elia, who was Martinez’s hitting coach with the Mariners from 1993-97.

“I didn’t want to hear what I was doing wrong (when I was a hitter), because most players know that they are doing something wrong,” Martinez said. “It’s more like, ‘How can I fix it?’ Focus on positive information so that they can start feeling good about their swing and their game. Lee Elia was great at that. He always would have something positive to say and not concentrate on the negative so much.”

Martinez will certainly be one of the more high-profile coaches in Mariners history. He’s the Mariners career franchise leader in on-base percentage (.418), RBIs (1,261), runs (1,219), doubles (514), extra-base hits (838), total bases (3,718), and walks (1,283), and he also ranks second in batting average (.312), hits (2,247), and home runs (309). That’s not to mention the street that lines the south end of Safeco Field is named Edgar Martinez Way, and his first name hangs from the facade of the upper deck in left field on a sign for the Edgar’s Cantina restaurant.

He will wear uniform No. 11, the same number he wore in each of the 2,055 games of his MLB career, all of which he played for Seattle.

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