McClendon values ‘4 o’clock hour’ practices

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.comDecember 13, 2013 

ORLANDO, Fla. — One change coming next season to the Seattle Mariners is that new manager Lloyd McClendon thinks on-field early work during the season is valuable.

“I believe players are creatures of habit,” McClendon said. “When you can go out and work on your craft — and work in a quality manner, not so much quantity, but certainly quality — I think it’s going to help you as far as in-game preparation, in-game reactions and in-game results.”

McClendon pointed to his experiences in Detroit, where he spent the past eight seasons as a coach under manager Jim Leyland.

“We had what we call our 4 o’clock hour,” McClendon said, “where we’d go out and do things, whether it was infielders or guys doing some soft tossing on the field or outfielders throwing the bases.”

The issue of early work was a point of contention last season between general manager Jack Zduriencik, who advocated it, and former manager Eric Wedge, who argued the players were too tired for such activity.

“I don’t know whether or not it was an issue with this club (in the past),” McClendon said. “I do know my background and how I go about my business. I think it is a valuable tool for you.

“… For me, that 4 o’clock hour is very important to get a lot of things done as far as preparation is concerned for the game.”

Rule 5 Draft

The Mariners lost two relievers in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday before leaving the winter meetings at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort.

And both wound up with the Los Angeles Angels.

Toronto selected left-hander Brian Moran in the major-league phase from the Triple-A Tacoma roster and immediately traded him to the Angels for $244,000 in cap space for international spending.

“He’s a guy we did fear might possibly get taken,” said Tom Allison, the Mariners’ director of pro scouting. “He had a really successful year. He creates a lot of uncomfortable (at-bats).

“I certainly hope we can get him back, but we’ll let that play out.”

Players selected in the major-league phase, for $50,000, must remain on a major-league roster for the entire next season or be offered back to their former club for $25,000.

Moran, 25, was a seventh-round pick in 2009. He had a 2-5 record with a 3.45 ERA last season in 48 games with Tacoma. He had 85 strikeouts in 622/3 innings.

“He’s had a very good minor-league progression,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “He’s been in the Pacific Coast League for two years and has really torn it up. Left-handed hitters just don’t see this guy very well.”

The Angels also took right-handed reliever Jose Valdivia in the Triple-A phase for $12,000. Valdivia, 21, was 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA in 32 innings over 20 games last season for Class A Everett.

“He’s got arm strength,” Allison said. “He’s just one of those guys who hasn’t quite put it together yet.”

Budgetary limits

Zduriencik chooses not to discuss the Mariners’ payroll “for competitive reasons,” but it appears he has $13 million to $18 million still available after the spate of recent additions.

And possibly more.

“If we got to the budget point,” he said, “and there was something out there, I’d have to sell myself (to chairman Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong) on why this was the right thing to do right now.”

Ackley in the outfield

The Mariners selected Dustin Ackley with the second overall pick in the 2009 draft in the anticipation he would be a long-term solution in their middle infield.

Inconsistency over the past two seasons and the emergence of other middle-infield options forced him into a position switch last season. Now, Ackley projects as a likely starter in the outfield — if he can hold that job.

“I think there are things Dustin has to prove,” Zduriencik said. “We’re all happy with his performance in the second half offensively, and what he did in Triple-A. But Dustin has to take that next step. Let’s not kid ourselves.”

Ackley, 25, started 2013 as the club’s starting second baseman but was batting .205 in May when he was demoted to Tacoma to learn how to be an outfielder.

The remedial tour took a month and bore promising results. Ackley batted .304 after the All-Star break and raised his average from .200 to .253 in his final 66 games.

“He’s had that not-atypical up-and-down (aspect),” Zduriencik said. “He’s responded well. I think that’s the real positive with him. You have to give him credit for how he’s handled all of this …

“We’d like to have him settle in and be the hitter we think he’s going to be.”

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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