By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The joke quickly made the rounds Thursday after the Mariners announced plans to induct former manager Lou Piniella into their Hall of Fame.
Will Sweet Lou mark the occasion by throwing out a ceremonial first base? Stay tuned.
The move honors a manager who guided the Mariners to seven winning seasons in a 10-year span from 1993-2002, including 116 victories in 2001. All four of the club’s postseason appearances came under Piniella.
“He gave me an opportunity here in Seattle,” said former catcher Dan Wilson, a 2012 inductee. “Lou was very instrumental in pushing me to become the player I became.”
The ceremony to induct Piniella will take place prior to the Aug. 9 game against the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field. He will be the Hall’s eighth inductee.
Already enshrined: Alvin Davis (in 1997), Dave Niehaus (2000), Jay Buhner (2004), Edgar Martinez (2007), Randy Johnson (2012), Wilson and Ken Griffey Jr. (2013).
“Lou Piniella was bigger than life,” Buhner said. “There was no question what the goal was every day when the players walked into the clubhouse — win tonight’s game. Anything less was not acceptable.”
Piniella, now 70, resides in Tampa, Fla., with his wife, Anita. He currently works as a color commentary on New York Yankees’ telecasts.
Look for the Mariners to continue to tweak their roster in coming days, but general manager Jack Zduriencik suggested it’s unlikely any splashy acquisitions will be forthcoming.
“We have some discussions going on with some agents as well as some other ballclubs,” he said. “Where it ends up, I don’t know. But I don’t suspect we’re going to make a major move.
“But, hopefully, we’ll do a couple of things, some tweaks, that will help the club.”
On hiring Donnelly
The decision to replace Daren Brown with Rich Donnelly as the manager at Class AAA Tacoma?
“I just felt like it was time … ,” said Chris Gwynn, the Mariners’ director of player development. “It’s never fun making moves like that, but sometimes you just have to do what you feel is best for the Mariners’ organization.”
Brown spent most of the last seven seasons as the Rainiers’ manager. He was reassigned within the organization to serve as roving bunting and base-running coordinator.
Donnelly arrives after spending the last three years in the New York Mets’ organization as the manager at Class A Brooklyn. His 43-year resume in pro ball includes 27 seasons as a big-league coach.
“His resume speaks for itself,” Gwynn said. “He’s been around the game for a long time. His comfort level with Lloyd (McClendon, the Mariners’ manager) is really good.
“I’m excited about him taking over in Tacoma. Cory Snyder will be on his staff as well; Jaime Navarro as well. All guys who know what it takes to be a big-leaguer. They should have a pretty good team.”
Right-hander Stephen Pryor is on pace to make a full return by late May after missing nearly all of last season because injury to his right shoulder — specifically a tear in his right latissimus dorsi muscle.
“He’s working at home and beginning a throwing program,” trainer Rob Nodine said. “We’re optimistic about his progression.”
n First baseman Jesus Montero is working out after suffering an injured right hand in winter ball that required stitches.
n Left-hander Danny Hultzen is close to starting a throwing program in his recovery from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. He is expected to miss the entire 2014 season.
n Two newcomers, outfielder/first basemen Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, show no problems in their recovery from knee surgeries.
n Third baseman D.J. Peterson, the club’s first-round pick n 2013, is working out in Arizona after suffering a broken jaw last August when hit by a pitch. Gwynn said, “He looks good.”
One signing confirmed
The Mariners confirmed a minor-league contract to retain outfielder Endy Chavez that includes an invitation to big-league camp. Confirmation of a similar deal with lefty reliever Joe Beimel could come as soon as Friday.
Chavez, who turns 36 next month, would be returning to the organization for the third time. He became a free agent after batting .267 last season for the Mariners with two homers and 14 RBI in 97 games. He previously played for the Mariners in 2009 and has a .269 average and a .307 on-base percentage in 1,071 career games with six clubs.
Beimel, 36, is an 11-year veteran who compiled a 4.36 ERA in 30 games last season at Class AAA Gwinnett in the Atlanta organization while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his elbow. He was 24-32 with a 4.21 ERA in 567 games from 2001-11 with six big-league clubs.
The two signings swell the Mariners’ spring roster to 63 players, including 23 non-roster invites.