The Mariners filled their coaching staff today, with the announcement of six new coaches:
• Howard Johnson – hitting coach
• Mike Rojas – bullpen coach
• John Stearns – third base coach
• Andy Van Slyke – first base coach
• Rick Waits – pitching coach
• Chris Woodward – infield coach
Earlier this month, new Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon named Trent Jewett his bench coach. Jason Phillips (bullpen catcher) and Scott Budner (left-handed batting practice pitcher) return from last season to round out the staff.
The names should sound familiar.
Johnson, who turns 53 on Nov. 29, spent last season as the Rainiers hitting coach. He spent the month of September with the Major League club, assisting with hitting instruction. Prior to joining the Mariners organization, Johnson spent 11 seasons in a variety of capacities with the New York Mets. His stint in the Mets organization included spending three full seasons (2008-2010) as the big-league hitting coach. Over a 14-year Major League career, Johnson batted .249 with 228 home runs, 760 RBI and 231 stolen bases in 1,531 games with the Tigers, Mets, Rockies and Cubs. He was an NL All-Star in 1989 and 1991. In 1991 he won the NL home run (38) and RBI (117) titles.
Rojas, 50, spent the past 2 1/2 seasons as the Detroit Tigers bullpen coach after being named to that position on July 3, 2011. Prior to that, Rojas was the Tigers director of player development from Aug. 6, 2010-July 2, 2011 and the minor league field coordinator (2008-2010). Rojas began his professional coaching career in 1995 and served as a minor league coach and manager. Mike is the son of former Major League player, coach and manager Cookie Rojas.
Stearns, 62, entered the 2013 season as Seattle’s minor league catching coordinator, and finished the year as the Rainiers manager after Daren Brown was elevated to the big league staff. Stearns is in his 39th season in professional baseball, and he has served as a scout, manager, coach, roving catching and hitting instructor, player and ESPN broadcaster. Stearns played 11 seasons in the Majors, combing to hit .260 with 46 home runs and 312 RBI in 810 games with Philadelphia (1974) and the Mets (1975-84). He was a four-time National League All-Star.
Van Slyke, 52, has been away from baseball for the last four seasons after serving as the first base coach for the Detroit Tigers from 2006-2009. With the Tigers, Van Slyke was part of the same coaching staff as McClendon. Van Slyke was a three-time All-Star (1988, 1992, 1993) and won five Gold Gloves during his 13-season Major League career. He was a career .274 hitter with 164 home runs in 1,658 games with the St. Louis Cardinals (1983-86), Pittsburgh Pirates (1987-1994), Baltimore Orioles (1995) and Philadelphia Phillies (1995). He was also teammates with McClendon with the Pirates from 1990-94.
Waits, 61, has spent the last three seasons as the Mariners minor league pitching coordinator. Before joining the Mariners organization he spent 15 seasons (1996-2010) in the New York Mets player development department, including the 2003 season as the Mets bullpen coach. Waits pitched in the majors for 12 seasons with the Texas Rangers (1973), Cleveland Indians (1975-1983) and Milwaukee Brewers (1983-85). He compiled a 79-92 record with eight saves, 47 complete games and 10 shutouts at the Major League level.
Woodward, 37, spent last season as the Mariners roving minor league infield coordinator. It was his first coaching position after retiring from a 17-year professional baseball career. Woodward played nearly every position on the diamond during his 12 seasons at the Major League level with the Toronto Blue Jays (1999-2004, 2011), New York Mets (2005-06), Atlanta Braves (2007), Seattle Mariners (2009, 2010) and the Boston Red Sox (2009).