As the Mariners wind down their fourth consecutive losing season, general manager Jack Zduriencik knows he’ll get a shot at keeping the streak from reaching a fifth year.
The Mariners have told Zduriencik he’ll be returning for a sixth season in 2014, though the team has yet to do the same with manager Eric Wedge. Mariners president Chuck Armstrong on Tuesday confirmed a Times report earlier in the day that quoted multiple sources indicating Zduriencik would be returning.
“Yes, Jack will be back,’’ Armstrong said.
The Mariners had previously spent the past month declining to discuss a one-year extension through 2014 they quietly gave Zduriencik shortly after last season ended. Their silence fueled speculation that in the wake of the team’s on-field collapse this month, they would merely buy out Zduriencik’s final year and hire a new general manager.
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The Mariners entered Tuesday a season-high 21 games under .500 and with just a 6-16 (.278) September record.
Armstrong declined Tuesday to go into detail on the reasons behind keeping Zduriencik beyond 2013, nor would he confirm the extension is for one year alone. Sources have indicated Zduriencik will not have a contract beyond 2014, a move being made in order to pressure him into attaining greater on-field success.
The same sources say that Wedge would also only be retained on a one-year deal, but that the call is ultimately Zduriencik’s to make. Zduriencik finally commented on his status Tuesday — only after Armstrong publicly confirmed to The Times that the GM was staying on — and said he’ll be making a decision on Wedge next week.
“You always operate on the basis that you’re going to keep doing the job,’’ Zduriencik said. “That’s what I’ve been doing. ’’
Zduriencik plans to bring the entire coaching staff in for meetings once the season ends Sunday, then announce his decision shortly after on who will man the dugout next season. Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln is then expected to address the media at some point next week once the managerial decision has been made.
Club sources have indicated the coaching staff has contracts that run through 2014 and that only Wedge’s deal does not go beyond this year.
Managers typically negotiate additional years for their coaches to protect them financially should they lose their jobs due to any managerial change. When it comes to managerial contracts, it’s up to the GM to secure additional years of financial protection for the field boss.
That has yet to happen where Zduriencik and Wedge are concerned.
In Wedge’s case, one of the hold-ups, according to sources, has been the stroke he suffered in late July and his monthlong absence from the dugout. The Mariners were apparently leaning toward moving forward with both Zduriencik and Wedge on one-year deals but the medical setback has caused considerable debate within the organization as to whether that’s wise.
If Wedge is not retained, third-base coach Daren Brown would be a leading candidate to replace him. Brown is familiar with many of Seattle’s younger players, having already managed them for the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers.
Brown served as interim Mariners manager under Zduriencik in 2010 after the team fired Don Wakamatsu in August of that year. The ability of Brown and Zduriencik to work together would be key, while an internal managerial promotion might be easier for the Mariners than a league-wide search given the fact the GM doing the hiring has only a one-year deal.
Brown was brought up from Class AAA in April to serve as interim third-base coach when Jeff Datz was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo extensive treatment. Datz has been ready to resume his third-base duties for more than a month and yet Brown has remained in that capacity with the Mariners.
Zduriencik said he’ll spend the next few days “evaluating what has taken place” in the dugout before making a final decision.
Things aren’t getting any easier for Zduriencik where next year is concerned. On Tuesday, he revealed that top pitching prospect Danny Hultzen will visit with renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews next Monday in Birmingham, Ala., to get a second opinion on possible labrum and tendon damage to his shoulder.
The shoulder trouble was first spotted by team physician Dr. Edward Khalfayan in an examination after the pitcher came up sore during a throwing session in the Arizona instructional league. If Hultzen needs surgery on his labrum, he could miss a good part of, if not all of, the 2014 season.
“Ed (Khalfayan) saw him and quite frankly, doesn’t like what he sees,’’ Zduriencik said. “He saw some damage that he was unhappy with.’’