A year ago, Don Wakamatsu was a rookie manager, bringing a staff of new coaches into Seattle's spring training to work with a roster full of new players.
When he and general manager Jack Zduriencik talked about bringing in former Mariners to help out - guys like Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Edgar Martinez - Wakamatsu passed.
It wasn't that he didn't value their input - or the franchise pride they might have brought with them.
Instead, Wakamatsu wanted a crash course with his staff and the players in camp, and he got it. Every player had one-on-one meetings with the manager, and others withvarious coaches.
"We wanted to get to know them, and for them to get to know us," Wakamatsu said. "It was where we began building that belief system in each other."
This year, there are going to be nearly as many new faces in camp - Zduriencik has had his second busy off-season, and players from the 2009 June draft will be on hand, too.
So, Wakamatsu hopes, will Buhner, Martinez and others.
"I'd love to have them come in and work with the players, dress with the coaches," Wakamatsu said. "It was never about not wanting to embrace players from the past. It was a unique situation last spring.'
Buhner has been invited to work with major and minor-league outfielders and while The Edgar has an open invitation, the team isn't certain he'll have time to take them up on it.
"He's running a fulltime business," Wakamatsu said. "We're hoping to work something out, but he doesn't have a lot of free time."
Nice to see the team reaching out once again to key players from its past. And it will give Ken Griffey Jr. more targets to torment. And with Buhner around, camp always feels a bit more dangerous.
Now, a few links:
- As always, when Lou Piniella speaks, laughter follows. During a Q&A with Cubs fans, he talked about being mellow - "I'm not mellow, I'm 66 years old. You want me to have a heart attack on the field?" And when a fan asked why Chicago relievers sit on folding chairs and Mariano Rivera has a special chair in New York, Sweet Lou was succinct: "If we had Rivera over here, he'd have his own special chair."
- Last week, SI's Ben Reiter picked his Top 10 remaining free agents - and four of them are former Mariners. He ranks Erik Bedard second, Russell Branyan eighth, Jarrod Washburn ninth and Yorvit Torrealba tenth.
- Northwest treasure Jim Caple weighs in with a column about baseball cards, mentioning a man who gives an uopened pack of them to his wife each year on her birthday. There's an idea!
- Justin Verlander's five-year, $80 million deal with the Tigers is a steal - at least if you're a Detroit columnist.
- Add another ex-Mariner to the list we compiled yesterday: Yorvit Torrealba is expected to sign on as a backup catcher in San Diego today.
- What's Manny Ramirez been up to this off-season? Not even the Dodgers seem to know.
- If you're Mets GM Omar Minaya, it seems to be open season in New York. Now Darryl Strawberry says Minaya should have done more this winter.