Gwynn settles in plus news and notes

Nov 3, 2011, 3:02 PM | Updated: Nov 7, 2011, 9:20 am

I took the opportunity yesterday to stop by Safeco Field and meet the Mariners new farm director Chris Gwynn. To some this may seem like a minor blip on the off season radar but I have always thought this position was one of the most interesting in the organization and to that end we had Pedro Grifol (who will now manage High Desert) on the post game show whenever we had the opportunity.

Gwynn comes from the Padres organization where he rose from scout to director of player development two years ago. He played for the Dodgers, Royals and Padres and yes, he is the brother of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.

He told me that the call from the Mariners to interview for the position came out of the blue. He has no ties to the organization and said that he only knew Jack Zduriencik from afar through their scouting days.

Right now Gwynn is in the settling in and get up to speed phase. His office will be at Safeco Field but he will spend the majority of his time on the road which is nothing new for him. In talking with him it became clear that through his work with the Padres he had found his passion and that was in working with the kids.

“For me, it is about being able to try to affect kids lives as far as fulfilling their dreams and getting as far as they can,” he said sitting in his new office. “I think it is the journey that I love,” he continued. “You see these kids who are young and impressionable and you see some run with it. They are bright eyed, and what do I need to do next… As long as they kid has a good work ethic and cares, you just give them the info and watch them work. I am really looking forward to it.”

Gwynn is a baseball person. He has been that kid in spring training. I asked if there was a moment from his early days that impacts what he wants to do in the position he is now in and he shared the story of what left a huge impression on him early on.

“I was a minor leaguer in the Dodgers system and in the mid 80’s in spring training and it was nothing for you to see Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax…Sandy Koufax threw us batting practice!” he marveled. “Don Drysdale, anyone who was connected with Dodger history was around. It made such a huge impression. They were nice guys trying to give you the right amount of instruction, encouragement. to me it made it feel possible. The guys were helping you, specifically. That was the moment I think I would want to help kids realize today.”

For Gwynn it is about creating the feeling of family in an organization and the right environment for a young player to grow. He looks around and sees that there will be plenty of help from former Mariners.

“I will reach out to Ken Griffey Junior. I played against him, Edgar, Buhner. I think it is a big part of creating that family niche, success that we want here. I think it is important. They have to feel like it is a team, the kids do. They have to feel a part of it.”

In addition to developing players on the field the farm director is also responsible for instituting off field learning as well. Gwynn likes what he has seen with the language labs in the Mariners farm system. He played Winter Ball for four years but said that experience doesn’t come close to what young players from different countries go through coming here to play baseball. He wants to take the language labs one step further this spring.

“I more than likely will also put in Spanish lessons for the Americans, including me, in spring training because communication is it. I want them to understand that it is important. Meet the kid half way,” he said.

Gwynn echoed many of the things we have heard from Eric Wedge regarding what they want to see on the field.

“I am a fundamental guy,” he said. “Play the game the right way and I want the kids to learn it from day one. To the point when they put their head down at the end of the day and close their eyes they hear their coaches saying this is how we do it.”

While Gwynn has seen a number of Mariners from the other side of the field or from scouting them as amateurs he has a ton of work ahead of him to get up to speed. There are reports to read, videos to watched, conversations to be had. His biggest learning will come in spring training when he has the opportunity to put eyes on his young players. It is clear he has a lot of work ahead of him. In the twenty minutes we talked Jack Zduriencik stopped by once and his phone never stopped ringing. He knows it is a 24/7 job and looks forward to it.

“It’s a lot of work but hey, I am here for the kids,” he said. “I am here to help Jack, Eric, everyone else. This is like family here and I had no idea. When I interviewed for this job I had no idea that the organization was so good as far as people, so I am very happy.”

News and notes.

Where to start, a ton going on. Luis Rodriguez cleared waivers and declared free agency. The Mariners will need to find a back up shortstop, a position they were particularly thin at last year.

Anthony Vasquez cleared waivers and was outrighted to Tacoma. The forty man roster is now at 35. Here is my post from earlier this fall on who they most likely will look to add before the Rule 5 Draft.

Alex Liddi has been sent home from winter ball in Venezuela. Liddi was struggling at the plate and while the players from big league organizations are there to get further development, the teams are still focused on winning and it is not uncommon to see players basically cut when they are struggling regardless of who they are. While it would be nice for Liddi to get some extra at bats this winter I have a feeling the off time will do him good.

Not struggling in winter ball? Erasmo Ramirez. The righty is 2-1 with a 1.74 ERA (4 ER, 20.2 IP) in 4 starts.

Look for the Mariners to make a couple more organizational hires soon.

Danny Hultzen and Nick Franklin have been selected to play for the West in the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game.The game will take and be televised live on MLB Network.

Chih-Hsien Chiang, acquired in the Erik Bedard trade has won the 2011 TOPPS Eastern League Player of the Year award.

So if you follow me on Twitter (and you should, @shannondrayer) you probably saw that I was upset that Brendan Ryan was not even voted a finalist in the Gold Gloves this year. He was the runner up to Troy Tulowitzki in the Fielding Bible Awards so that is something to feel good about.

Something else to feel good about? Dustin Ackley despite being new to the position received votes at second base. Put Ryan and Ackley together and what do you get? The second best double play combo in the bigs according to the Bill James Handbook 2012. From the press release,

“Brendan Ryan was tops among shortstops with 18 Runs Saved. Dustin Ackley tied for fifth among second-basemen with 10 Runs Saved. But together, Ryan-Ackley was the second-most deadly double-play duo in the majors. Ryan is also the three-year leader among all shortstops with 65 Runs Saved over that time.”

Not bad.

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Gwynn settles in plus news and notes