Wakamatsu gets down to business with Mariners

PEORIA, Ariz. — Don Wakamatsu might as well have been an assistant coach again, back in Oakland or Texas.

Saturday’s first day of training camp for pitchers and catchers was no big whoop for Seattle’s new field boss. He treated his first day as a major league manager like he was a bench coach again for the Athletics, as he was last season, or for the Rangers before that.

He’s run multiple spring trainings for Texas and Oakland in the half dozen years, so this is his most comfortable time of the season.

Wakamatsu gained so much of former Rangers manager Buck Showalter’s trust, he ran camps for the notoriously meticulous Showalter earlier this decade. He planned out all the drills and rotations, kept the players moving and engaged. He even had football-like two-a-days. Half the Rangers practiced in the morning, the other half in the late afternoon. That oddity was so the coaching staff could get a better look at all players.

No, the Mariners won’t be doing that. But all else is the same to Wakamatsu.

“I still roam the fields, just as I did before,” he said after his first Mariners workout, minutes before the former catcher went back out for the first of what he promises will be daily drills with Seattle’s catchers. “It sure helped being able to coordinate camps for a number of years, being able to go around and know what I want to see.”

Wakamatsu has already acquired Showalter’s knack for delegating. He is giving his bench coach, Ty Van Burkleo, the authority to run this camp.

“I told him he’d lose his hair like me,” said Wakamatsu, who turns 46 next week and whose dark hair is thinned on the top of his head.

Just before drills began, Wakamatsu held a short meeting with the pitchers and catchers. He will have a longer one when the rest of the team reports Tuesday.

His initial message to a team that lost 101 games last season and has been told most jobs are open for competition in this camp?

“They are going to control a lot of their own destiny by the work they put in and by their health,” Wakamatsu said.

Wakamatsu then roamed and observed throughout the two-hour workout. He watched the pitchers’ fielding practice; the bullpen sessions of Felix Hernandez, Carlos Silva, Ryan Rowland-Smith and others; and then a pair of 300-yard shuttle runs each player did in the outfield to measure their conditioning.

He even got to see Brandon Morrow vomit at the end of one of his runs.

“Oh, you saw that, too?” Wakamatsu said when asked later about Morrow’s, uh, “show.”

The manager reported everyone who did the shuttle runs completed each in under the prescribed one-minute time.

Asked if he was disappointed only one player threw up, Wakamatsu said, “Yeah. A lot of old coaches used to wait until three guys threw up before they would shut the drill down.”

EXTRA BASES: Wakamatsu said LHP Erik Bedard, whose 2008 season was cut short by shoulder surgery, has no limitations to begin camp. Bedard will throw his first bullpen session as scheduled on Sunday. … LHP Tyler Johnson missed the first day with what Wakamatsu called “a little flare up” in his pitching shoulder, which was surgically repaired last May. Johnson, a candidate for a setup role in the bullpen, missed all of last season with the Cardinals. Seattle signed him as a non-roster invitee on Feb. 5. … LHP Cesar Jimenez, who appeared in 31 games for Seattle last season, was sent home with bronchitis so he wouldn’t get anyone else sick. He also has lingering tendinitis in his throwing arm from pitching winter ball.

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