Notes: McLaren excited about 2008
With a deal in place for next season, skipper has big plans
SEATTLE -- The wait is over for Mariners manager John McLaren. He knows his future and can prepare for the 2008 season.He knew there was a possibility of bad news. That's no longer the case. Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln announced on Thursday that both McLaren and general manager Bill Bavasi will be back next year. "I have been here and want to stay," McLaren said before the Mariners game with the Rangers on Friday. "I do the same things preparing every day. If they didn't have me back, I would have understood, but I still feel I'm the right guy for the job. Now I've got my wheels turning on what we need to do to get ready for Spring Training. I'm really excited and looking forward to the challenge." McLaren started the season as the Mariners bench coach, but took over as manager on July 2 when Mike Hargrove stepped down. The Mariners went into Friday's game with a record of 40-41 under McLaren. The Mariners need a sweep of the Rangers to allow McLaren to finish the season with a winning record. "We're trying to win every game," McLaren said. "I really haven't thought of it in those terms. I had an idea of the record, but I just want us to play good baseball every time out. We're mixing in a couple of kids, but we're still trying to win. My record is not something I'm focused on. I'm not going to lose any sleep over one more loss or one more win." McLaren smiled. "Next year I might," he said. Bavasi is finishing his fourth season as the Mariners general manager. The Mariners record has improved with each season, but they still haven't been to the playoffs since their record-setting 116-win season in 2001. Bavasi, speaking to reporters on Thursday, said they should be getting close. "I think we're at a point we should be bringing young kids in that have impact at the Major League level," Bavasi said. "I think we're at a point we should be able to put a competitive club on the field. By that, I mean, get to the postseason and compete successively in the postseason. I think we're there. Those are the expectations we can make of ourselves." Suzuki, Putz, Green honored: Ichiro Suzuki was named the Mariners' Most Valuable Player of 2007, and J.J. Putz was named the Pitcher of the Year by the local chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Reliever Sean Green was named the winner of the Unsung Hero Award, an award selected by the coaching staff. Since being recalled on May 23, Green leads the American League with 60 relief appearances. He is 5-2 with a 3.90 ERA on the season going into Friday's game. "When you're in the bullpen, 90 percent of the relievers around the game are probably unsung," Green said. "It's just nice to get the ball day in and day out in tough situations and close games. I don't feel I'm in a situation where I've been overused. I feel strong. One thing I pride myself on is my arm is pretty resilient." This is the third time Ichiro has won the award. He was also the Mariners' MVP in 2001 and 2004 when he won his two American League batting titles. He went into Friday's game hitting .350 with 110 runs scored, 233 hits and 37 stolen bases. This is the second year in a row for Putz, who went into Friday's game with 39 saves, tied for the second most in the American League. He also had a 1.41 ERA and will be the second pitcher in club history to record an ERA under 2.00. Betancourt, Sexson watch: The Mariners hold out hope that shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt (sprained right elbow) might play again this year, but admit that Richie Sexson (left hamstring) is done. Sexson hasn't played since Sept. 9. "Richie is done for the season," McLaren said. "We just want him to get ready for the offseason. We're not taking any chances, and he has nothing to prove. There's nothing we have to gain." Betancourt was out of the lineup for the fifth straight game because of his elbow. McLaren said he was available as a pinch-runner only on Friday and might be able to pinch-hit on Saturday. "He's better but he's not able to throw," McLaren said. "We'll use him sparingly." Clement starts: Jeff Clement was in the lineup for the second straight game as the Mariners designated hitter. McLaren said there's little need to get him in the lineup as the catcher since he's going to the Arizona Fall League, but the Mariners do like watching him swing the bat. Clement, their first-round pick from the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, went 2-for-4 on Thursday and hit his first Major League home run on Wednesday. "There's a different sound off his bat," McLaren said. "He's definitely got some thunder in his bat. He's a very intelligent kid and he can hit the ball out of the ballpark. That interests me a lot." Johjima's throwing improved: Kenji Johjima picked off Cleveland's Grady Sizemore at first base to end Thursday's game, an example of how much he has improved his throwing this year. Johjima went into Friday's game with three pickoffs, second most in the American League. Angels catcher Jeff Mathis has seven. Johjima also went into the game having thrown out 38.7 percent of attempted basestealers, third best in the American League. He was eighth at 27.8 percent in 2006. "He had the quickness, but we knew he had more arm strength than what he was using," McLaren said. "Sometimes when you try to be too quick, you don't use all your arm strength. Now he's using both. That's the best scenario. He's made a lot of strides. His English has improved, he's working with the pitchers better and he's blocking balls better." Up next: Right-hander Miguel Batista pitches for the Mariners at 7:05 p.m. PT on Saturday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Kevin Millwood pitches for the Rangers.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.