McClendon completes his new coaching staff
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon completed his coaching staff on Monday and the group will have a mix of new and old faces.
McClendon, who was Detroit’s hitting instructor before being hired by Seattle to replace Eric Wedge, hired two coaches with whom he had former Tigers connections in first base coach Andy Van Slyke and bullpen coach Mike Rojas.
McClendon reached into the Mariners farm system to promote hitting coach Howard Johnson, pitching coach Rick Waits, third base coach John Stearns and infield coach Chris Woodward.
And the new skipper retained two members of Wedge’s former staff in bullpen catcher Jason Phillips and left-handed batting practice pitcher Scott Budner.
That group joins former Nationals third base coach Trent Jewett, who already had been announced as McClendon’s bench coach.
None of Wedge’s primary staff was retained, including bench coach Robby Thompson, pitching coach Carl Willis, hitting coach Dave Hansen, first base coach Mike Brumley, third base coaches Daren Brown and Jeff Datz and bullpen coach Jaime Navarro.
Datz, replaced the final five months of last season by Brown after being diagnosed with cancer, has been offered a position in the scouting department. Brumley has taken a job as the assistant hitting coach with new Cubs manager Rick Renteria.
Thompson interviewed for Jewett’s third-base job with the Nationals and Willis was a finalist recently for pitching coach openings with the Phillies and Orioles, but those jobs have since been filled by others. All of Seattle’s former coaches remain under contract through next season.
Johnson, a two-time National League All-Star who won a pair of World Series titles with the Tigers (1984) and Mets (’86), takes over as hitting coach after holding that position with Triple-A Tacoma last year. Johnson spent the prior 11 seasons in the Mets’ organization, including three and a half years (2007-10) as their big-league hitting coach.
Johnson, 52, started the 2007 season as the Mets’ first base coach before becoming their hitting coach in July and then held that position through 2010. Over a 14-year Major League career, he hit .249 with 228 home runs, 760 RBIs and 231 stolen bases as a switch-hitting third baseman and outfielder with the Tigers, Mets, Rockies and Cubs and he led the National League in home runs (38) and RBIs (117) in 1991 with the Mets.
Johnson worked with the Mariners as an assistant hitting coach in September last season after the Rainiers’ season ended, so he’s already worked with Seattle’s players as well as many of the top Minor League prospects.
Waits, 61, is also a familiar figure with many of the Mariners after spending the last three seasons as the team’s Minor League pitching coordinator. He’ll be taking his first job as a Major League pitching coach, but has helped develop top prospects Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez since joining the organization in 2011.
Prior to being hired by the Mariners, Waits spent 15 seasons in the Mets organization, including seven years as their Minor League pitching coordinator from 2004-10 and was the Major League bullpen coach in 2003. Waits pitched in the Majors for 12 seasons with the Rangers, Indians and Brewers from 1973-85.
Stearns, 62, takes over as third-base coach after finishing last year as the manager in Tacoma. He opened the year as Seattle’s Minor League catching coordinator, a job he began in 2012, but took over the Rainiers after Brown was promoted to Seattle’s third-base coach to replace Datz. A four-time National League All-Star with the Mets, Stearns has been in professional baseball for the past 39 years as a player, coach, scout, manager and ESPN broadcaster.
Woodward, 37, joins the Major League staff after spending last season as the Mariners roving Minor League infield coordinator. That was his first coaching position after retiring from a 12-year Major League career that included two years with the Mariners in 2009-10. Woodward also spent time with the Mariners late last year working with young infielders Nick Franklin and Brad Miller.
McClendon reached into his Tigers past to hire Rojas and Van Slyke. Rojas, 50, spent the past two and a half seasons as Detroit’s bullpen coach. The son of former Major League infielder and manager Cookie Rojas had been with the Tigers since 2004, including four years as their Minor League field coordinator and then director of player development. He has been a Minor League manager in the Tigers, Reds, Astros and White Sox’s organizations after playing several years in the Minors as a catcher.
Van Slyke, 52, has been out of baseball the past four years after working as the Tigers first base coach from 2006-09 when McClendon was Detroit’s hitting coach. The three-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove center fielder was also teammates with McClendon with the Pirates from 1990-94 as part of a 13-year Major League career.
Phillips and Budner are holdovers from the previous staff. Phillips has been the bullpen catcher the past five years and also works with advance scouting reports, while Budner was hired two years ago to help throw left-handed batting practice and help chart games after working as a Minor League pitching coach in Seattle’s system from 2000-08 as well as similar posts with the Orioles and Giants.