Mariners are winning with players, coaches who spent most of the year in Tacoma
Hot-hitting Matt Tuiasosopo is one of several Mariners players who has spent much of the season with the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mariners @ Yankees, 4:05 p.m., FSN
NEW YORK — After driving in seven runs his past two games, Matt Tuiasosopo discussed the comfort level he feels with the coaches newly imported by the Mariners from Class AAA Tacoma.
But he need not have stopped with the coaches. The fact is, these Mariners have notched four consecutive series victories by taking the Rainiers, sprinkling in a handful of big-league veterans, then turning them loose to winning results for the first time all season.
Heading into Friday night's series opener against the New York Yankees, 14 of the 25 players on the Mariners roster will have spent time at Tacoma this season for reasons other than injury rehabilitation. Couple that with the importing of Tacoma manager Daren Brown to replace Don Wakamatsu, along with the additions of other minor-league coaches, and the Mariners' clubhouse should indeed feel like home to the vast majority of players.
"I played for Brownie (Brown), for Zo (hitting coach Alonzo Powell)," Tuiasosopo said. "I've known (bench coach) Roger (Hansen) and (performance coach) Pedro (Grifol) ever since I've been in this organization since 2004. And there are a lot of us in this room who came up together with those coaches. So, I feel really comfortable here. And guys are a lot more loose. There's just a lot more looseness and guys having fun than there was before."
That much should not be a surprise.
The firing of Wakamatsu, bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, pitching coach Rick Adair and performance coach Steve Hecht had been anticipated for weeks and hung over the team. Throw in the most recent imports from AAA and only 10 players who helped dig this team into its early last-place hole have actually been around all season.
In contrast, the Yankees have 20 players who have spent the entire season with the big-league club.
"We've had a lot of these guys before and they know us, so there's a familiarity level that helps," Brown said. "We know what to expect from a lot of them, and they know what we expect."
Among the Rainiers who've made their 2010 Seattle debuts and contributed to successes the past seven weeks are starting pitchers David Pauley and Luke French, as well as relievers Chris Seddon, Brian Sweeney and Jamey Wright. Tuiasosopo and catcher Adam Moore began the season in Seattle but have spent most of the year at Tacoma.
Backup catcher Josh Bard was also in Tacoma most of the season, while left fielder Michael Saunders and infielder Josh Wilson began there but are now the starting left fielder and shortstop. Backup outfielder Ryan Langerhans also began the year in Tacoma. Backup shortstop Chris Woodward, a veteran leader of the Rainiers this season, was the most recent Rainiers player called up.
Bullpen regular Garrett Olson spent the first two months of the season in Tacoma, while Sean White also had an extended AAA stint this season.
That hasn't stopped the team from winning eight of its past 12 games. Just before that, they'd won only seven of their previous 32.
Not surprisingly, the AAA Tacoma squad has paid a price for all the call-ups. Tacoma had been running away with its division but a 6-15 slide had left the Rainiers with just a half-game lead as of Thursday.
Part of the recent Mariners success might have something to do with the caliber of opponents. The Mariners played a Baltimore team that has the league's worst record, as well as a sub-.500 Oakland squad, and Cleveland and Kansas City clubs battling for the AL Central basement.
Things look to get a lot tougher in New York and Boston. But for the first time in months, the clubhouse seems to be a place players actually want to be.
"The pitching's been great, the runs have been exceptional," Pauley said after picking up his second consecutive win. "And when we're all coming together, it's a lot of fun out there."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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