The Mariners held a team meeting before Saturday’s game so third base coach Jeff Datz could inform the team he has been diagnosed with cancer.
Datz will remain with the team as he assesses treatment options. In a statement released to the media, Datz said the cancer was “caught very early” and that he does not want his future absence to “be a distraction to the team.”
Manager Eric Wedge had a direct opinion on the matter.
“Like I told him, ‘You’re going to beat it,’ ” Wedge said. “It’s as simple as that. Then, he’ll be back in good shape.”
Wedge and Datz began working together in 1998, when each was managing in the minor leagues. Wedge was at Single-A Columbus of the South Atlantic League and Datz won the Triple-A International League title with Buffalo that season.
Eventually, they moved up in the Cleveland organization. When Wedge was hired as the Indians’ manager in 2003, Datz was his first base coach.
Datz, 53, stayed with Wedge through his time in Cleveland – which ended in 2009 – as third base coach and bench coach. When Wedge was hired by Seattle in 2011, he rehired Datz to be third base coach, work with the catchers and run spring training.
Datz is from Camden, N.J., and was drafted by Houston in the 18th round of the 1982 draft. He spent seven seasons in the Astros’ minor league system as a catcher and reached the majors with Detroit in 1989. He played seven games that season.
WEDGE INSISTS SS RYAN NOT ‘BENCHED’
Wedge talked further about the situation at shortstop with Robert Andino and Brendan Ryan.
Earlier in the week, Wedge replaced Ryan with Andino.
“Regardless of what has been written, I didn’t bench (Ryan),” Wedge said. “I said Andino is going to play more and we’re going to take it day to day, week to week and month to month and see what happens.
“It gives Brendan a chance to work on his craft, and gives Robert a chance to get going out there. Hey, if Robert takes it and runs with it, so be it. Robert is going to play more right now. We’ll get Brendan in there when we can and continue to let him work on his game.”
Ryan played his second consecutive game Saturday. He was 1-for-2 with a walk and a safety squeeze that brought in a run Friday night.
“I believe in him,” Wedge said. “I like him, I really do. I think he’s a championship player. But, he has to go out there and perform better offensively and work his emotions in a better direction that helps him do that.”
The emotional side of things has always been a challenge for the effervescent Ryan. In a game of failure, he continues to have trouble routing his emotions in a productive manner when he struggles at the plate.
Wedge was asked if Ryan, 31, can change at this point.
“I don’t know,” he said.
SAUNDERS EXPECTED BACK IN LINEUP SOON
Outfielder Michael Saunders was the designated hitter Saturday night for the Rainiers and is slated to play in the field Sunday. Saunders is working his way back from a sprained right shoulder, suffered April 10 when he ran into the right-field wall at Safeco Field. The sprain put one of the Mariners’ few hot hitters (was hitting .375 in five games prior to the injury) on the 15-day disabled list.
Friday night, Saunders was hit in the right shoulder by a pitch. Though Saunders is fine after the plunking, Wedge was left shaking his head at the circumstance.
“That pretty much sums up where we are right now,” Wedge said with a laugh.
Former Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas will make his Safeco Field debut for the opposition when he takes the mound Sunday afternoon for the Angels. Vargas is off to a bumpy start for Los Angeles.
Vargas was traded to the Angels in December for DH Kendry Morales after spending four seasons in Seattle. Vargas pitched more than 200 innings twice and won 36 games in his four years.
The Mariners moved him during the offseason, trading a seeming surplus (starting pitching) for a large hole (offense). Vargas is 0-2 with a 5.82 ERA for the Angels. Morales is hitting .253 with three home runs and nine RBI coming into Saturday’s game.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (2-1, 1.99 ERA) takes on Vargas (0-2, 5.82). The 1:10 p.m. game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.