Don Wakamatsu hopes he has more answers for the Seattle Mariners than he has years of experience as a major league manager.
SEATTLE — Don Wakamatsu hopes he has more answers for the Seattle Mariners than he has years of experience as a major league manager.
It's a safe bet he will — the former Oakland bench coach has never managed in the majors.
Looking for a new direction, the sunken Mariners picked Wakamatsu over several other inexperienced candidates in the hope he can lead them to a rebound from a 100-loss season.
Wakamatsu was hired as Mariners manager Tuesday, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.
The team is expected to make an announcement sometime today. KING television in Seattle first reported that Wakamatsu got the job.
"This is a heck of an opportunity," he said last week after he interviewed in Seattle with new Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik and team president Chuck Armstrong.
And now about those answers ...
Wakamatsu becomes Seattle's fifth manager since Lou Piniella left following the 2002 season. He replaces Jim Riggleman, who took over in June when John McLaren was fired after a 25-47 start to a season in which the Mariners were expected to contend for the playoffs. Riggleman wasn't even considered.
McLaren was on the job less than 12 months, after Mike Hargrove quit suddenly in the middle of the 2007 season — the last time Seattle was winning.
The Mariners lost 101 games this season, its most since 1983, and became the first team to lose 100 with a $100 million payroll.
Wakamatsu said winning now is possible, even though 36-year-old Raul Ibanez, the team's leading run producer, is a free agent, and the underperforming, expensive rotation includes Erik Bedard, Jarrod Washburn and Carlos Silva — all of whom could be gone before spring training.
"Anybody can come in and say, 'I want to win right away.' But you have to be realistic," Wakamatsu said last week.
"There's work to be done this winter."
By filling the only opening in the majors with a rookie manager, Seattle scoffed at the conventional idea that rebuilding teams need experience at the helm. The Mariners have never reached the World Series, and have finished last in the AL West three of the last four seasons.
The 45-year-old Wakamatsu spent four seasons managing in the minors, never higher than Double-A.
Then again, the Mariners have been eschewing experience for weeks. None of their seven candidates had managed in the majors, underscoring how intent first-time time GM Zduriencik is on completely remaking a flopping franchise.
Wakamatsu beat out a fresh, relatively unknown field: Boston bench coach Brad Mills and third base coach DeMarlo Hale; Arizona third base coach Chip Hale; Chicago White Sox bench coach and former Mariners infielder Joey Cora; St. Louis third base coach Jose Oquendo; and San Diego Triple-A manager Randy Ready.
Zduriencik is rebuilding the Mariners with a new scouting department, a new system of player evaluation — and now a new field leader who knows the AL West.
Wakamatsu interviewed with the Rangers a few years ago. He was their bench coach from 2003-06 and third base coach in 2007. Then he went to the young, rebuilding Athletics to assist manager and friend Bob Geren — the two used to coach their sons' Little League teams together.
Wakamatsu said recently he thought opposite approaches in those last two jobs would serve him well in Seattle, which is transforming itself from old and bad to young — and hopefully better.
He says he knows only a little Japanese — always a consideration in Seattle, where All-Star Ichiro Suzuki is the franchise cornerstone — though it has improved recently while with the A's and Rangers. Wakamatsu was the minor league catching coordinator for the Angels from 2001-02, after playing in the minors as a catcher from 1985-96. He played 18 games in the majors with the White Sox in 1991.
He managed Arizona's rookie league team in 1997, then at Class-A High Desert, Double-A El Paso and Double-A Erie from 1998-2000.
He now knows Zduriencik isn't seeking a long-term rebuilding project. Zduriencik's intent is to win as soon as possible; he refuses to declare next season a lost makeover.
"From the outside looking in, this is a club that a lot of smart people around the world thought would make the postseason," Wakamatsu said. "Why were they wrong? ... What changed? I don't see this team as being an old team.
"In general, it's a young team that maybe with some prodding we can win right away."