11/25/2013 2:35 P.M. ET
Mariners announce McClendon's coaching staff
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon completed his coaching staff Monday, and the group will have new and old faces when the club gathers for Spring Training this February in Peoria, Ariz.
McClendon, who was Detroit's hitting instructor before he was hired by Seattle to replace Eric Wedge, hired two coaches with whom he had 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.
McClendon said retaining Johnson and Waits from the Mariners' system was a win-win situation.
"No. 1, if you have opportunity to promote from within, it's very healthy for the organization," McClendon said. "And if those guys are qualified individuals, it becomes an A-plus, and that's what we have here with a couple guys who are very capable and have similar philosophies."
None of Wedge's staff will return in their previous positions, 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 in the final five months of last season by Brown after he was diagnosed with cancer, has taken a job in the Mariners' pro scouting department, according to general manager Jack Zduriencik.
Hansen has been offered a job as Seattle's assistant hitting coach and Brown was given the opportunity to remain with the Mariners in a Minor League position, but both are weighing other options.
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. Willis was a finalist 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 with the Mets, including 3 1/2 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 he held that position through '10. 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 NL in home runs (38) and RBIs (117) in 1991 with the Mets.
"HoJo and I played against each other for a number of years," said McClendon. "I know his competitive spirit and that he knows what he's talking about. The interview process was very impressive. He really matched the ideals I have."
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.
If Hansen chooses to return, he would become the first full-time Mariners assistant hitting coach, a trend that is growing throughout the Majors and one McClendon said he welcomed after having an assistant as a former hitting coach himself with the Tigers.
Waits, 61, is also a familiar figure with many of the Mariners after spending the past three seasons as the Minor League pitching coordinator. He'll be taking his first job as a Major League pitching coach, but he has helped develop top prospects Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez since joining the organization in 2011.
"Waits is a tremendous individual," McClendon said. "He really blew me away in the interview process. I walked away from that meeting thinking this guy represented everything I wanted in a pitching coach and felt it would be a pretty good match for everybody involved."
Prior to being hired by the Mariners, Waits spent 15 seasons in the Mets' organization, serving as the Minor League pitching coordinator from 2004-10 and the Major League bullpen coach in '03. Waits pitched in the Majors for 12 seasons with the Rangers, Indians and Brewers from 1973-85.
"I think it's an advantage," Zduriencik said of Waits' experience in the Mariners' system. "But it's more about the individual and the things Rick has done. He worked with me when I was farm director with the Mets. This guy has been around the game a long time, he knows our players and has been in this system. There are a lot of arrows going in the right direction. This is an opportunity he's earned and deserves."
Stearns, 62, takes over as the 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 started in 2012, but he took over the Rainiers after Brown was promoted as Seattle's third-base coach to replace Datz. A four-time NL 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 2 1/2 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 as the director of player development. He has been a Minor League manager in the Tigers, Reds, White Sox and Astros' 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 Award center fielder was also teammates with McClendon with the Pirates from 1990-94 as part of a 13-year Major League career.
"Andy actually called me," McClendon said. "He was excited about having the opportunity. For me, in all my years in baseball, Andy Van Slyke was probably the most impressive practice coach I've ever been around as far as getting guys prepared and teaching the profession. I'm excited to have this guy. He's an All-Star center fielder with tremendous credentials. The fans in Seattle are going to love this guy."
Phillips has been the Mariners' bullpen catcher the past five years and also works with advance scouting reports, while Budner was hired two years ago to throw left-handed batting practice and help chart games after working as a Minor League pitching coach in Seattle's system from 2000-08, holding similar posts with the Orioles and Giants.