The Mariners have a new manager, a different coaching staff and, for the first time, a star player signed to a long-term contract through free agency.
First-year skipper Lloyd McClendon talked at the Mariners’ annual pre-spring training luncheon Thursday about a change in culture and the tone he wants to set.
“What we want to build that around is some type of team covenant,” McClendon said. “A lot of times team covenants are written and sometimes they’re unspoken, but regardless of what we decide to do with this team covenant, it’s going to be my responsibility to enforce it.”
Despite the changes that McClendon envisions and the major offseason personnel move, the team is banking on the same hopes it has leaned on the past few years in an attempt to consistently win.
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“The biggest thing for us would be for these young group of guys that we’ve been counting on to take the next step — that’s an unknown,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said.
The Mariners signed a team cornerstone when they inked second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract. Kyle Seager has proved himself a quality third baseman, and the team appears ready to hand the reins to rookie catcher Mike Zunino. Aside from that, though, much is up in the air as the Mariners prepare to open spring training next month.
Zduriencik said as much Thursday, recognizing that the team will be counting on players that have merely shown signs of success. The sixth-year general manager said he’s not penciling anyone into a starting role and will let players make a case for themselves during spring training.
The same goes for the pitching staff, as the rotation has question marks past Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. The Mariners will give young pitchers Erasmo Ramirez, Taijuan Walker, Brandon Mauer and James Paxton an opportunity to earn a spot, but McClendon said he’d like to add a veteran starter to the mix.
Similar uncertainty abounds in the bullpen, where relievers have shown flashes of success, but have struggled at times, as well.
“In order to be successful at this game, sometimes you have to fail and get knocked down on the mat, but at some point you’ve got to get up and start fighting back,” McClendon said. “I think it’s time for some of our young pitchers, particularly in that bullpen, to get up off the mat and let’s find out what you’re made of.”
Fame for Piniella
The Mariners will induct former manager Lou Piniella into the team’s Hall of Fame on Aug. 9. Piniella will become the eighth member inducted. The team inducted former outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. last season.
Piniella was Seattle’s manager from 1993 to 2002, leading Seattle to its first division title in 1995 and, in 2001, his Mariners won a record-tying 116 games during the regular season.
• The Mariners signed veteran outfielder Endy Chavez to a minor-league contract with an invitation to major-league spring training, the team announced Thursday. Chavez, who will be 36 when the season begins, hit .267 in 97 games for the Mariners last year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.