Changes may be in store for Mariners

  • Tue Apr 24th, 2012 12:45pm
  • Sports

By Larry LaRue The News Tribune

On May 7, 2010, the Seattle Mariners were hitting .225 as a team and a pair of writers approached general manager Jack Zduriencik outside the team’s clubhouse.

They asked if batting coach Alan Cockrell was in danger of being fired.

“We haven’t even thought about that,” Zduriencik said, “we’re just trying to win as many games as possible, get this thing going in the right direction again.”

Two days later, Zduriencik fired Cockrell.

Today, the Mariners begin a three-city, 10-game trip against the Tigers, Blue Jays and Rays, opening that stretch with a 7-10 record and a team batting average of .223.

Is batting coach Chris Chambliss in trouble?

There’s no reason to think so other than this: In disappointing starts like the Mariners have had — which could easily continue through this trip — someone pays.

When Cockrell was fired early in 2010, the Mariners 11-18 record wasn’t his fault, and the team wound up hitting a league-worst .236 that season. Is it the fault of Chambliss that Brendan Ryan is batting .190, Miguel Olivo .154, Chone Figgins .215, Justin Smoak .203?

Does it matter?

Manager Eric Wedge has a young roster, but he’s losing patience with finding that as an excuse.

“These are grown men. You can only talk about youth and inexperience so much,” Wedge said. “They’ve got to handle it. This is the major leagues — it’s not supposed to be easy.”

After years of watching the Seattle offense put up the worst numbers in baseball, the 2012 team was expected to be better — and well may be.

Just not at the moment.

“Everyone will be on board when we turn the corner,” he said. “I’d ask our fans to take that leap of faith before then — it’ll make it that much more special when we do get there.

“We’re going to be a championship team. A lot of people haven’t figured that out yet. It’s not an easy road, there are tough times you have to go through.

“I get our fans. They care. Criticism comes with the sport. I’ve got broad shoulders and thick skin,” Wedge said.

The Mariners’ tough start was magnified by the sweep the Chicago White Sox laid on them over the weekend, and the perfect game thrown against them Saturday.

Now, they’re headed out to face three solid teams on the road.

“This trip won’t be easy,” Wedge said. “But on the way to what we’re going for, you have to be tougher than the rest.”

There are roster issues coming that might help the offense but could complicate things. When Mike Carp is ready to rejoin the team, finding a roster spot won’t be hard.

Figuring where to play him could be.

Does Wedge put Carp in left field and sit Michael Saunders for Figgins in center field? Does he bench Kyle Seager and put Figgins at third base? Does Carp play first base in place of Smoak, or designated hitter at the expense of Jesus Montero?

Clearly, something is going to change relatively soon — and if Zduriencik doesn’t make the call, Wedge will have to.

Does the team give up on the Figgins-as-leadoff-hitter experiment before May 1? Does it speed up Montero’s catching schedule and sit Olivo?

Does the front office pick a coach and fire him?

For the Mariners, the simplest answer would be to start winning games again, start hitting. If that doesn’t happen on this 10-game trip, the Mariners may not return to Seattle with everyone they left with.