The Mariners made a minor coaching roster move on Monday, announcing that longtime Rainiers manager Daren Brown will be called up to handle the third base coaching duties in the absence of Jeff Datz, who announced he had been diagnosed with cancer last week.
The Mariners used minor league catching coordinator John Stearns as the third base coach the last few days. Stearns will take over for Brown at Tacoma.
Brown was on the sixth hole at Tacoma Golf and Country Club with hitting coach Howard Johnson and a Rainiers season ticket holder when he got the call this morning.
"I really thought it would be easy playing golf today," he said. "The big league club is off, probably would not get a phone call today. That is normally when they have a day off, you don’t expect (a call). It obviously took me by surprise."
So what did he do next?
"I just played nine and then I jumped in a cab," he said. "I didn’t drive, I rode with one of our season ticket-holders, and Ho-Jo. Think we were ready to tee off on 7, we just finished 6 when they called. I didn’t play very much after that because my phone was ringing quite a bit."
He also made a few calls, including one to his wife.
"It's funny, she just had a promotion at her job yesterday, so she was all excited, which was good," he said. "This was something very unexpected for us."
Brown is taking a red-eye tonight to get be here by Friday afternoon. (I did it last night. Not much fun).
How long this change will last is based largely on Datz's health and treatment for the undisclosed type of cancer. It's certainly not how Brown wanted to make his return to the big leagues.
"Obviously the situation with Datzie, we all wish him the best and hope for the best and he gets everything under control and taken care of it," Brown said. "It is kind of a tough situation in that, because I consider him a good friend, and a great guy. For me, it’s about going up and doing the best job you can do, and let him get healthy."
Brown has managed the Rainiers affiliate in the Pacific Coast League for the past seven seasons, will serve as an extra coach and fill in as a third base coach when needed. He has some big league experience, serving as the interim Mariners manager in 2010 after Don Wakamatsu was fired, going 19-31.
Does that help him?
"There is always an adjustment," he said. "I think I am able to adjust. There is always an adjustment period. The thing down here, when you are managing and coaching third base, you are kind of doing a little bit of everything, but you put everything in that you want to put in, whether it is signs or that kind of stuff. Right now, obviously they’ve got things in place, and it is up to me to make those adjustments to go along with that. It will be a little adjustment period, but I am looking forward to it."
He has extensive minor league managing experience, with a career mark of 948-856 (.525) in 15 seasons managing in the minors, including the last 13 years with Mariners organization. The Rainiers are currently atop the PCL North Division with a 17-10 mark, including winning the last eight straight games. He became the all-time leader in managerial wins in Tacoma franchise history last season when he notched his 376th victory with the Rainiers on May 28 vs. Tucson. He led the Rainiers to back-to-back divisional titles in 2009 and 2010, including winning the PCL Championship in 2010.
As for the Rainiers, Brown believes they are in capable hands.
"I know Stearnsy has been here and got here at 11:30, same as myself," he said. "I met with him, to go over the stuff we have been doing, what guys have been playing, what they have been doing and what we are expecting. He knows a lot of it obviously being in the organization. It's still different – it's a different voice. I think these guys, right now the way we have been playing – pitchers have been throwing the ball well and we’ve been getting some key hits – they just need to continue what they are doing."
Stearns, who is in his second season as the Mariners minor league catching coordinator, will take over as manager of the Mariners Triple-A affiliate the Tacoma Rainiers. Stearns has also spent three seasons with Seattle as a professional scout (2009-11) prior to his role as minor league catching coordinator. A four-time All-Star and 11-year Major League veteran, Stearns has spent over 39 years in professional baseball, including roles as a Major League coach (Yankees, Reds, Orioles, Mets) minor league manager (9 seasons), scout and even as an ESPN analyst.