Mariners announce 2011 coaching staff

The Seattle Mariners have assembled a coaching staff under new manager Eric Wedge that’s a combination of experience from the past season, new faces in key positions and a promotion from their minor league system.

Pitching coach Carl Willis and first-base coach Mike Brumley will return in those roles, and Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers pitching coach Jaime Navarro will be the new bullpen coach. Also, bullpen catcher Jason Phillips will return to the same job.

Former Yankees slugger Chris Chambliss is the new hitting coach, ex-Giants infielder Robby Thompson will be bench coach and former Orioles coach Jeff Datz will be the Mariners’ new third-base coach.

In announcing the staff Thursday, the Mariners said it was important to assemble coaches who are familiar with a roster that’s a mix of young and veteran players, plus men who’ve had a history with Wedge.

“We have a staff with experience, energy and a track record, not only as players but as coaches,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said.

Zduriencik also said Daren Brown, the Tacoma manager who became the Mariners’ interim manager when Don Wakamatsu was fired in August, will return to his old job with the Rainiers.

Alonzo Powell, promoted from Tacoma to be the Mariners’ hitting coach when Alan Cockrell was fired in May, also will return to his old job with the Rainiers.

Two other coaches who finished the season in Seattle — third-base coach Lee Tinsley and bullpen coach John Wetteland — won’t return.

Thompson, 48, was a two-time All-Star in an 11-year career with the San Francisco Giants and spent the past eight seasons as a special assistant with the Cleveland Indians. He will assist Wedge in all facets of the game as bench coach and also oversee infield instruction.

“I’m glad he’s decided to get back on the field,” Wedge said. “I think he has a great mind, a championship presence and he’s just a good baseball guy.”

Willis, 49, was the Indians’ pitching coach for seven seasons under Wedge. He began this year as the Mariners’ minor league pitching coordinator before becoming pitching coach Aug. 9 when Rick Adair was fired along with Wakamatsu.

Chambliss, 61, played on four World Series champions with the Yankees and has worked 13 years as a major league hitting coach with the Yankees, Cardinals, Mets and Reds. He managed the past two years at Class AAA Charlotte in the White Sox organization.

“He’s a guy who really knows hitting,” Wedge said. “His experiences and his presence are going to be a big plus for us as we get our hitting program on track.”

Datz, 50, was the Orioles’ bench coach in 2010 and was Wedge’s bench coach with the Indians from 2007-09.

Navarro, 43, worked the past three seasons as a pitching coach in the Mariners’ minor league system, including pitching coach this year on a Rainiers team that won the Pacific Coast League championship.

“I ask a lot of coaches and I ask them to be accountable,” Wedge said. “They have to understand it is a process, especially with young players. I do know we’re going to start getting this thing going in the right direction.”

Kotchman becomes a free agent

The Mariners, positioning themselves for an offseason of transactions to come, are down to 29 players on their roster after first baseman Casey Kotchman refused the team’s attempt to outright him to the minor leagues and decided to become a free agent.

“I figured he would do that,” Zduriencik said. “Any time a player gets to this point in his career and can test the market, I think he would do that. It wasn’t unexpected.”

Kotchman’s departure gives the Mariners considerable wiggle room roster-wise as they prepare for the Rule 5 draft in December and a winter of maneuvering that could include trades, signings and promotions from within to fill the 40-man roster.

White to appear in Smokey Point

Relief pitcher Sean White, outrighted to Class AAA Tacoma on Wednesday, will appear from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Wal-Mart store in Smokey Point (4010 172nd Street NE in Arlington) to sign autographs and talk with fans. As of Thursday, White hadn’t told the club if he will accept the outright or choose to become a free agent.

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