Drayer: Mariners set 2020 coaching staff, promote 4 from within
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto can cross one piece of offseason business off his list as Seattle has announced its additions to the 2020 Major League coaching staff.
After reassigning pitching coach Paul Davis to a new role of chief pitching strategist and not renewing the contracts of bullpen coach Jim Brower and third base/outfield coach Chris Prieto, the Mariners had three vacancies on manager Scott Servais’ staff. The coaches taking those spots should be familiar names as all three come from within the organization, and another joins the major league staff from the minors.
Taking over pitching coach duties is 31 year-old Pete Woodworth, who held the same position at Double-A Arkansas in 2019 and for the two previous seasons at High-A Modesto. Brian DeLunas, who spent the 2019 season as Mariners director of pitching development, returns as bullpen coach, a position he held in 2018. Carson Vitale has been promoted from minor league field coordinator, a position he has held the past two years, to major league field coordinator. And also joining Servais’ staff is Jarrett DeHart, who moves from roving minor league hitting strategist to assistant hitting coach.
#Mariners announce 2020 Major League coaching staff.
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The Mariners are also moving Manny Acta from bench coach to third base coach, with Jared Sandberg becoming bench coach after serving as major league field coordinator in 2019. Perry Hill (first base/infield coach) and Tim Laker (hitting coach) will return in their same roles, as will batting practice pitcher Nasusel Cabrera and bullpen catcher Fleming Báez.
All of the additions to the coaching staff have spent a considerable amount of time with the big league club. DeLunas and Vitale held organizational positions and were present on and off throughout the season, DeHart spent most of his time in 2019 with Seattle’s big league hitters, and Woodworth joined the Mariners when the Travelers were eliminated from the postseason in early September. While Arkansas came short of winning a championship, its pitching staff led the Texas League in ERA, shutouts, complete games, fewest walks and fewest home runs allowed, and the Travelers posted the second-most strikeouts. Woodworth was voted Texas League Coach of the Year at season’s end.
“We were very blessed with the amount of talent that came through Little Rock this year,” Woodworth said in September. “The Sam Delaplanes, the Joey Gerbers – there were a lot of highlights from this year.”
Aside from the numbers, Woodworth brings continuity for the young pitchers, having worked with what Dipoto hopes will be three-fifths of the Mariners’ Major League rotation in the very near future in Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn and Logan Gilbert, as well as a number of relievers who could debut in 2020. That continuity has considerable value for the Mariners as they move forward.
Over the past four years, Dipoto and director of player development Andy McKay have worked to develop and implement systems throughout the Mariners’ minors that would get everyone at every level on the same page and speaking the same language. In the case of Woodworth, he got a jump on the language and some of the philosophies that the Mariners impart in the minors before he entered the organization. His introduction to a huge part of the Mariners’ development system came during a summer stint in college playing for McKay on the LaCrosse Loggers of the Northwoods League.
“He was my sports psychologist,” said Woodworth in September. “He taught me about how it is not just the physical talent but the ability to be able to use the other side of the game and to prepare the right way, to be constantly learning more than just bullpens and throwing sessions of batting practice. That really opened up the door from the mental side and my interest in reading more, learning more and finding out more about that side, which really plays a huge part in any coach’s job, being a therapist, being a sports psychologist, mental skills coach. Meeting Andy and spending so much time with him for sure helped my playing career, but it really helped me when I started coaching.”
Bringing this quartet to the big leagues is an indication of the Mariners’ confidence in and commitment to the processes and systems they have implemented throughout their minor league system. Often a new pitching or hitting coach is brought in to bring a new voice, a new direction. That direction has been set in the minors, and as young players come up – and with the investment the Mariners have made in their young players with their step-back seasons – there should be familiarity and the language should be the same.
If four years ago you asked how the emerging organizational philosophies and systems would be implemented at the big league level, this is one way you do it.