PEORIA, Ariz. – John Stearns couldn’t be John Stearns. His body wouldn’t allow it
And without that, there was no way he could do his job.
Early Friday morning, Stearns, speaking in measured tones with general manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon next to him, announced that he was resigning his job as third-base coach for the 2014 season because of health reasons.
He will be reassigned to the Mariners’ pro scouting department once he is 100 percent healthy.
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Rich Donnelly, who was slated to be the Tacoma Rainiers manager, will take over as the third-base coach.
“I am not physically able to perform the role of third-base coach yet, and it appears that I will not be able to perform the job until the middle of April,” he said. “It is not fair to the organization, to Lloyd or to the players for me to expect to jump back in after not being able to participate in the bulk of spring training.”
Full of enthusiasm, constantly on the move and never quiet, the former All-Star catcher brings a level of energy to the field and clubhouse on a daily basis that is rare in baseball. It’s one of the reasons McClendon hired him to be his third-base coach for the upcoming season.
But in the past week, Stearns began to understand he couldn’t be that person. After having surgery for a hiatal hernia on Feb. 24, Stearns realized the road back to full health was going to be more difficult than expected.
“I’m having a lot of trouble with this surgery,” he said. “I thought for sure I’d be out there by now. But I can’t eat anything solid right now. I’m eating yogurt and protein drinks. I’m just not ready to go.”
Stearns had told Zduriencik and McClendon a few days ago that he was leaning toward this decision, but they made him wait a few days to think it over.
“It kills me because the thing we all want to do in this business is be in the big leagues,” Stearns said. “It’s a tough decision. It makes sense that the best thing for the organization and the players is to step down.”
McClendon understood his friend’s thinking. The two were both catchers in the Mets organization and grew to be close.
“The most important thing is making sure that John gets healthy and is able be productive again,” McClendon said. “I know it’s a tough decision for him. I support it.”
Zduriencik respected Stearns’ honesty.
“We all feel bad for John,” Zduriencik said. “It’s tough on him to do this, but it’s his decision. He came forward and said he just didn’t think it was the right thing.”
Donnelly has been serving as third-base coach in Cactus League games during Stearns’ absence. He has worked as a major-league coach for 27 seasons and was a third-base coach for the Pirates (1993-95), Marlins (1997-98), Rockies (1999-2002), Brewers (2003-05) and Dodgers (2006-07).
Zduriencik said a decision would be made on the Rainiers’ manager in the next few days.
The logical candidate for the Rainiers job is Daren Brown, who is the all-time leader in managerial wins with Tacoma at 376. He served as the manager for every season since 2007. In 2010, he left the Rainiers to serve as interim manager for the Mariners after Don Wakamatsu was fired.
Two-out walks hurt Wolf
There are few things more frustrating for a pitcher than two-out walks. Even veterans like Randy Wolf can fall susceptible to them. Two two-out walks submarined his second start of the Cactus League season in Friday’s 10-9 loss to the Reds at Peoria Stadium.
Wolf pitched three innings, giving up four runs on three hits, including two homers. But much of that damage could have been limited without the two walks.
In the first inning, Wolf got up 0-2 on Brandon Phillips, but walked him. Chris Heisey followed with a two-run homer to left.
In the second inning, Wolf walked light-hitting Corky Miller. Sure enough, Kris Negron ripped a triple to right-center to push the lead to 3-0.
Wolf’s other run allowed came in the third when Phillips jumped on a hanging curveball and hit it over the wall in left field.
The walks irked Wolf most.
“Both of them hurt me,” Wolf said. “It’s pretty costly and those things can’t happen. The way I look at it, it was sharp except for with two outs. If I pitched the way I should have pitched, I should not have given up the home run to Phillips.”
• The Mariners’ rally was helped sparked by last year’s first-round draft pick, DJ Peterson. The slugging third basemen blasted a solo home run to spark a five-run two-out rally that tied the score at 8-8 in the sixth inning. Peterson also had a single in the seventh. Said McClendon: “He’s an interesting young man. He seems like he knows what he’s doing out there.”
• Taijuan Walker played catch for a second straight day as he returns from shoulder inflammation. Second baseman Robinson Cano had the day off. He had a root canal after Wednesday’s game and still wasn’t feeling well.
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