TORONTO — Tacoma Rainiers skipper Daren Brown hadn’t even officially spent a game as the Seattle Mariners’ third base coach before he was sticking up for third base coaches everywhere.
He wanted everyone to know the job is much tougher than people think. It’s more than just relaying a few signals and trying not to get hit by wayward line drives.
“There’s a little more to it than just that,” Brown said. “There’s decision making: who’s at third; who’s at second; who’s at first; how each of them run; outfielders’ arms on the field — there are plenty of things from a decision-making standpoint. So it’s not just standing out there, giving a few signs and talking to a guy when he gets to third.”
Brown has coached plenty of third base in his career. Unlike the big leagues, minor league managers coach third base during games. Fans at Rainiers games during Brown’s lengthy tenure will have seen the tall Oklahoman standing in the third base coach’s box.
It’s one of the reasons Mariners manager Eric Wedge decided to bring up Brown.
“Brownie has obviously been managing for a long time and coaching third base for a long time,” Wedge said. “He’s familiar with everything we are doing.”
Technically, Brown was Wedge’s predecessor as manager of the Mariners. Brown was Seattle’s interim manager for the last 40 games of the 2010 season after Don Wakamatsu was fired. Wedge was hired before the 2011 season.
But there was no awkwardness after Brown went back to managing the Rainiers, and he’s built a solid relationship with Wedge over the past few seasons.
“I feel like I have gotten to know him,” Brown said. “We communicate quite a bit during the season. Obviously, there is spring training when I’m with them. I know what he’s about, and he knows what I’m about.”
With regular third base coach Jeff Datz possibly missing a fair amount of time after undergoing treatment for cancer, Wedge decided to go with Brown as Datz’s replacement.
“We weren’t sure how it was going to play out at first,” Wedge said. “It’s at the point where Jeff might miss some time. ... We decided this would be a more permanent move. Brownie’s very familiar with me and how we do things. He’s familiar with the players having managed most of the guys. It all works.”
Brown was all smiles before Friday’s game at the Rogers Centre against the Toronto Blue Jays. It didn’t matter that he was working on just a few hours of sleep, having taken a red-eye flight out of Seattle to meet up with the team.
He even joked a little bit about the Mariners’ team speed – — or lack thereof – when it came to deciding on when to wave home speed-challenged runners such as Jesus Montero, Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse.
“They just give me a little bit more time to make a decision,” Brown said.
Kidding aside, this will be an adjustment process for Brown as he needs to learn the runners, the league and the speed.
Will Brown be aggressive with Mariners runners?
“I tend to look at the guy I’m trying to push the envelope with,” he said. “I always like to be more aggressive with guys that can run a little bit. You can put a little pressure on the other team with a guy that can run. Every situation is different. It’s not, ‘Runner on second base and every base hit you are sending the runner.’ And I feel like here, you have to remember that you have a big league hitter in the on-deck (circle).”
While Brown is appreciative to be back in the big leagues, he hopes that his stay is short and Datz returns sooner rather than later.
“Jeff is the third base coach here,” Brown said. “Right now, we all just want him to get healthy. I’m just filling in till he gets back.”
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (2-1, 1.67 ERA) will get the start today at 10:17 a.m. for Seattle. The Mariners originally planned to have Iwakuma start on Sunday because of a blister on his middle finger, but the injury has healed enough to move up his start to Saturday. The Toronto Blue Jays will counter with former Mariners knuckleballer — and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner — R.A. Dickey (2-4, 4.50 ERA). The game will be broadcast for television on Root Sports and for radio at 710-AM.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483