When Don Wakamatsu insisted in spring training that he and his staff would be satisfied – no matter what the Seattle Mariners record – with a season in which they helped players improved, he was viewed as something of a naive maniac.
Today, it makes a lot more sense.
What the Mariners coaching staff has been able to do with players like Russell Branyan, Franklin Gutierrez, David Aardsma, Sean White and Jarrod Washburn is little short of spectacular.
Branyan kicked around baseball for 13 years, and this season has broken out with 22 home runs before the All-Star break.
Gutierrez was benched in Cleveland last season, but this year is batting .292 and playing great defense in center field.
Aardsma was the perennial project, a hard-throwing reliver who made stops with the Giants, Cubs, White Sox and Red Sox before turning 26. Today, he’s a closer wih a 1.96 earned run average and 20 saves in 22 chances.
Washburn? A lefty who never quite worked out in Seattle, he embraced new pitches this spring and, while he’s just 6-6, has a 2.96 ERA and has pitched more innings, more quality starts, than anyone on the team not named Felix.
They’ve taught baseball, yes, and they’ve taught attitude. What they’ve done has pushed the franchise further in three months than it had any right to expect.
Bench coach – Ty Van Burkleo
Pitching coach – Rick Adair
Third base coach – Bruce Hines