Few words were minced when it came to what the Mariners' brass expects from the guy replacing fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland. A different voice is...
TORONTO — Few words were minced when it came to what the Mariners’ brass expects from the guy replacing fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland.
A different voice is what general manager Bill Bavasi and manager John McLaren both say they’ll be getting out of 70-year-old Lee Elia, named interim hitting coach after spending the first two months this season as a part-time consultant to the team. Elia himself was pretty blunt about his aggressive personality, which sits in stark contrast to the laid-back Pentland.
“I’m probably more spontaneous,” Elia said. “If we’re talking about beating a [pitcher] in a certain way and we don’t accomplish it, then maybe for that moment I might say something.”
In other words, Elia can erupt at any moment.
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He’s famous for an expletive-laden tirade to reporters in 1983 when he was managing the Chicago Cubs. That diatribe is so renowned that its 25th anniversary was commemorated by media across the country last month.
“There’s two scenarios,” Elia said on Monday about how he’ll relate to the hitters under him. “If you love your children, there’s going to be times you’re going to say things to your kids that might be a little aggressive, but it’s only because you love them.
“And the other one is, there’s nobody in the world that I love more than my wife, and probably four or five days out of every month I really can’t stand her. So, I mean, those are the kinds of things they might have to understand at times about me.”
Elia did say that he’ll need to gain the players’ trust to be successful. He doesn’t see much difference between what Pentland was teaching and his own approach.
“Sometimes, I might say, ‘It’s 50 cents on the dollar and he might say, ‘It’s a half a buck,’ ” Elia said. “It might just come out of my mouth in a different way where they understand it a little clearer.”
Elia feels the team has “got to mentally take away the bigness of the plate” and be a bit more selective in approach.
He said the team approached him about the change late Sunday night and he accepted after talking it over with his wife and daughters. Elia had previously stated he no longer wanted to work in baseball full-time.
And he reiterated on Monday that those feelings hadn’t changed and that he still doesn’t want the job on anything but an interim basis.
Bavasi had nothing but good things to day about the outgoing Pentland, but felt his message wasn’t sinking in.
“We hope to hit, is the bottom line,” Bavasi said. ‘And beyond the bottom line, specifically, we’re hoping that a lot of the work that Jeff did can be done by Lee, but just by using a different voice, a different approach.”
Mariners manager McLaren left little doubt about what he feels will happen if Elia’s edicts aren’t followed.
“Lee’s vocal,” he said. “He can pat you on the back and cheerlead you. And then, when he needs to, he can get in your face and challenge you. I’ve seen both sides of it.”
Asked whether he felt certain players needed to be challenged, McLaren replied: “I think you can put it any way you wanted to and it would probably be right on.”
• Mariners players reacted with some sadness and a touch of resignation to the firing of Pentland.
“I certainly feel somewhat responsible for it,” said Raul Ibanez, who hit just .218 in May as the team began its slide into last place. “We haven’t been doing what we’re capable of doing. It’s a difficult thing. I hold myself partly accountable for it.”
Adrian Beltre said he figured it was a matter of time before a coach got dismissed, given the team’s poor play. He said players have no say in such moves and have to concentrate on what they are doing on the field.
Beltre is hitting .145 with runners in scoring position this season.
“I’m surprised, but sometimes that happens,” he said. “I’m the type of player that gets streaky. It’s taken a little longer this year but that’s something that’s always been a source of pride for me. Hitting better with runners in scoring position. But it’s not happening. Hopefully, it gets better sooner.”
• Jeremy Reed got pulled out of Monday’s game for a baserunning blunder in the sixth after he and Richie Sexson led off with singles. Reed was the lead runner at second and got picked off by a large margin by Toronto starter Jesse Litsch.
Wladimir Balentien replaced Reed in right field in the bottom of the seventh.
“I pulled him out,” McLaren said afterward. “We talked about it before the game and stuff. I’m not trying to embarrass anybody, but we’ve got to wake up and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
A contrite Reed said he agreed with the manager’s decision and that he doubts he’ll ever make such a mistake again.
• Erik Bedard continues to be a topic of interest in Toronto, which is about a three-hour drive from his Navan, Ontario, home. Bedard is set to become a free agent after the 2009 season, and there is widespread speculation he could sign with the Blue Jays.
But sources in Toronto indicated on Monday that the team has cooled on Bedard and may no longer be interested in acquiring him — now or later. The Jays have had some public-relations issues the past few seasons with A.J. Burnett, a pitcher expected to use an escape clause to opt out of his five-year deal with Toronto after this season.
Several Toronto-area writers requested to speak with Bedard during this series, but he declined through a team spokesman.
For the record
vs. AL West: 10-14
vs. L.A.: 3-6
vs. Oakland: 3-2
vs. Texas: 4-6
vs. AL East: 7-16
vs. AL Cent.: 4-10
vs. NL: 2-1
vs. LHP: 4-12
vs. RHP: 19-29
Extra innings: 3-2