Lloyd McClendon is the youngest of nine boys in his family. Asked what impact that had on him in Gary, Ind., one of the roughest places in the country, McClendon said, “I got my ass kicked every day.”
McClendon was introduced Thursday as the Mariners’ 16th full-time manager. He was stern and direct with his answers.
Here’s our story on McClendon’s hiring and introduction, plus some personnel notes at the bottom:
SEATTLE — Jack Zduriencik’s hand-written list of managerial candidates had more than 60 names on it.
He assembled eight members of the baseball operations staff in a room and held a draft. Each member of the operations staff picked who their top choice from the list of names would be. They went around until all the names were eliminated.
They disassembled. Each left with a list of names to research and make a case for. A couple days later, they presented their arguments to Zduriencik knowing who the new manager would be was ultimately his call.
The list was down to 12, then 10. Meetings were held in Arizona before a final four made it to Seattle for another round of discussions.
Wednesday, Zduriencik sat in the main interview room at Safeco Field to introduce the third manager of his five-year tenure as general manager: Lloyd McClendon.
McClendon failed in one of the first things he set out to do as the new manager of the Mariners. He cried.
McClendon had told his old boss, former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, he wouldn’t do such a thing. But, before he came up to the dais, the water leaked from his eyes.
There wasn’t much more emotion from McClendon the rest of the day as he presented his vision for the Mariners with stern, sincere statements.
“I respect my opponents, but I fear nobody,” McClendon said.
He’s from Gary, Ind., where, on Monday, a dead body was found in the trunk of a burned out car. That’s a harrowing synopsis of the strife in the city McClendon was raised in.
During his introduction, there was consistent talk about toughness and work. McClendon, who was a hitting coach with the Tigers the last seven seasons and managed the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2001-05, will be taking over a team that had three rookies in its final day lineup.
The Mariners offense, flooded with young players once again last season, fluctuated. Asked how to counter those waves, McClendon turned back to his basic tenet.
“You work, then you work some more, then you work a little bit more and you become a creature of habit,” McClendon said.
Three years ago, McClendon was interviewed for the managerial position in Seattle. The Mariners hired Eric Wedge instead.
This time, McClendon, who was also interviewed in Detroit to succeed Leyland, received the job.
He said he had no concerns that Wedge chose to leave or that he was the third manager in five years.
McClendon also said there was one thing in particular to like about the current Mariners roster.
“Felix, Felix and Felix,” McClendon said.
Staff ace Felix Hernandez is on the list of players McClendon expects to speak with soon. Unlike the prior two managers under Zduriencik, Don Wakamatsu and Wedge, McClendon will be going to the players to introduce himself.
His contention that it’s the players’ game, not his or anyone else’s on the staff, was a point McClendon went back to frequently. That’s why he will be piling up frequent flyer miles to Florida for a visit with youngsters Brad Miller, Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino. He’ll head to Arizona to check-in with players who are working out there. Hernandez has a house in Seattle, which should make that meeting the easiest to set up.
“Players first,” McClendon said. “I don’t want players to get out of their comfort zone. I think it’s my responsibility to go to them. If you want to call yourself a leader and a guy capable of leading young men, you better learn how to serve them. It takes some humility, some understanding and some patience.”
McClendon, 54, will start assembling his staff quickly. There are multiple reasons to do so. Four other managers have been recently hired, so they will be pursuing staff members. The winter meetings take place in Orlando Dec. 9-12. The sooner a group is put together, the sooner the Mariners will have continuity to move into the offseason with.
With any manager, there are questions about his leadership ability. McClendon says he has that under control.
“When you talk about leadership, it should come from the top and that starts with me. In the clubhouse, hell, I’ll do all the leading,” McClendon said. “On the field, I need guys to hit three-run homers.”
> There are the eight baseball operations guys who were in the meeting with Zduriencik and provided their feedback:
Coordinator – Video Advance Scouting, Andrew Percival
Manager – Baseball Operations, Caleb Peiffer
Baseball Operations Analyst, Wesley Battle
Assistant, Baseball Operations, Jesse Smith
Assistant, Video Advance Scouting, Tom Koch-Weser (has since left for job with Houston)
Assistant, Amateur Scouting, Kenny Wade
Assistant, Amateur Scouting, Anthony Aloisi
Assistant, Professional Scouting, Jordan Bley
> Reliever Stephen Pryor will start throwing in January and will throw in spring training, but may not be ready for opening day after having season-ending surgery on his right lat Aug. 9.
> Left-handed starter Danny Hultzen is just starting his rehab in Arizona following surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff, clean up his damaged labrum and fix his shoulder capsule. He’s out for the year. The Mariners drafted Hultzen No. 2 overall in the 2011 draft. He’s yet to throw a big league inning.
> Zduriencik was happy with how the Mariners manager starters Taijuan Walker and James Paxton last season. Each reached the Majors in September and are candidates to make the rotation in the spring.
“Neither guy had to be on the roster this winter, but we decided it was in their best interest to get these kids big league experience,” Zduriencik said.
Zduriencik said they wanted to get both familiar with the work in the Major Leagues so they already have that experience should they break camp with the Mariners in 2014.
> Nick Franklin started hot, then went off the cliff for the Mariners. “He looked great right off the bat,” Zduriencik said. “There are the growing pains. I think he showed you one thing, he’s talented.”
> Zduriencik was asked if Dustin Ackley will remain a center fielder: “We’ll see. I think there’s a lot to be said … we’ll see what happens this winter. I think Ackley has the potential to play second base. I think he did a nice job in center field and did a nice job in left field. The one thing I always said about him being out there is everything’s a first. I do think his breaks were good, his speed plays well. He doesn’t have the great throwing arm, but, we’ll see.”
> Lastly, asked what happened to that first base he famously yanked off the field and left with as Pirates manager, McClendon said, “That base is mine. I paid a lot of money (in fines) for it.”