Hitting coach Chris Chambliss is only member of new Seattle coaching staff with no ties to manager Eric Wedge or the Mariners
The Mariners' new coaching staff under manager Eric Wedge will include Chris Chambliss as hitting coach, Carl Willis as pitching coach and Robby Thompson as bench coach.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The coaching staff of new Mariners manager Eric Wedge has a Cleveland flavor, but strong Seattle roots as well.
"We tried to cover all the bases," Wedge said in a conference call Thursday. "Jack (Zduriencik) and I looked at a lot of people, made a lot of calls and really did our homework."
The only new coach without previous ties to Wedge or the Mariners is hitting coach Chris Chambliss, an All-Star first baseman and a four-time World Series winner as a coach for Joe Torre's Yankees from 1996 to 2000. Most recently, Chambliss, 61, has managed Class AAA Charlotte in the White Sox organization the past two seasons.
"I'm excited to bring Chris on board," Wedge said. "He's a consummate professional. You can't find anyone who hasn't said that about Chris Chambliss. People know him from his playing days, but the guy really knows hitting. His experience and presence will be a big plus in getting our hitting program back on track."
Pitching coach Carl Willis, third-base coach Jeff Datz and bench coach Robby Thompson all served on Wedge's Indians staff. Willis ended last season as the Mariners' pitching coach after Rick Adair was fired, along with manager Don Wakamatsu, in August.
Besides Willis, another holdover is first-base coach Mike Brumley, who started the season as Wakamatsu's third-base coach and moved to first base in midseason. Brumley, 47, will be Wedge's first-base coach. Brumley and Wedge were teammates with the 1991 Boston Red Sox.
Rounding out Wedge's staff will be bullpen coach Jaime Navarro, 43, who has spent the past three seasons as a pitching coach in the Mariners' system. He spent last year at Class AAA Tacoma, where he tutored, among others, Michael Pineda, who will be competing for a spot in the Mariners' rotation.
Zduriencik said that Daren Brown, who finished last year as the Mariners' interim manager, has accepted an invitation to return to his previous job as Tacoma manager. Alonzo Powell, who became the M's hitting coach under Brown, is also slated to return to Tacoma as hitting coach, Zduriencik said.
Thompson, 48, was a two-time All-Star second baseman during an 11-year career with the Giants. He was the Indians' bench coach in 2002 and also served in that role under Wedge in the second half of 2005. But after the season Thompson moved to the front office as a special assistant in baseball operations so he could spend more time with his family. Two of his sons are now in professional baseball.
"He's got an empty nest now; I'm glad he decided to get back on the field," Wedge said. "He's got a great baseball mind and a championship presence to him."
Datz, 50, was both a third-base coach and bench coach under Wedge in Cleveland. He spent last year as the bench coach with the Orioles.
"For our needs as a third-base coach, I think he'll do a fantastic job as far as his preparation and understanding situations," Wedge said. "He'll also help me organizing each day and staying ahead of the game."
Wedge called Willis, 49, "one of the best pitching coaches in the game. I have all the trust in the world in him. Carl is a great communicator. He builds a relationship with each and every pitcher."
Wedge said he believes Willis and Navarro will work well together.
"Jaime really connected with Carl last year. That relationship was very key to us. Plus, Jaime has a connection with some of our young pitching on the way. That's really a plus as well."
Brumley was primarily an infielder in his career but had some time in the outfield. Thompson will handle the infielders, while Brumley works with the outfielders.
"I saw Mike play center, left and right," Wedge said. "I know what kind of athlete he is."
Jason Phillips, 34, returns for his third season as the Mariners' bullpen catcher.
In other news Thursday, Casey Kotchman declined an outright assignment to Tacoma and became a free agent. Kotchman, acquired last January from the Red Sox in a trade for Bill Hall, hit .217 in 125 games with nine homers and 51 runs batted in.
Zduriencik said Kotchman's decision to pursue free agency was "not unexpected."
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com
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