The Seattle Mariners announced late Thursday that manager Daren Brown will return for his seventh season at the helm of the Tacoma Rainiers. Brown will be joined by longtime pitching coach Dwight Bernard, new hitting coach Howard Johnson, and returning coach Brent Johnson.
Brown will be the first person to ever manage Tacoma for seven seasons – his 416-419 record after six seasons leaves him as the franchise all-time leader in both manager wins and manager losses. This is a sign of longevity – he’s been here since 2007, minus his 50-game stretch as Mariners big league manager in 2010.
Dwight Bernard is also embarking on his seventh season as Rainiers pitching coach. The former major league reliever has been a minor league pitching coach since 1986, and the 2013 season will be his tenth in the Mariners organization.
The new guy is hitting coach Howard Johnson. “HoJo” was a power-hitting switch-hitter who led the National League with 38 homers and 117 RBI for the 1991 New York Mets. HoJo also played for the 1984 World Series champion Tigers, and the 1986 World Series winning Mets. All told he played 14 years and had 228 career home runs.*
For 11 years HoJo worked for the New York Mets in various roles, including a three-year stretch as their Major League hitting coach (2008-2010).
HoJo replaces Jeff Pentland as Rainiers hitting coach. At the end of last season, Pentland was not real interested in returning to the minor leagues for 2013. I got the feeling that if he didn’t get a major league job, he would be perfectly content retiring to his cabin in Arizona.
Our other Johnson is Brent, who will return for a second season as a Rainiers coach. Brent Johnson helps with the hitters and outfielders, and last year he coached first base – which I suppose he’ll do again this year, unless HoJo really wants to be on the bases.
I spoke with Daren Brown on the phone today, giving him a needed respite from hanging Christmas lights on his house in Amarillo, Texas. Here’s what he had to say:
On coming back for year seven: “I am looking forward to it. I like it there, and with the group they had in Double-A I think it will be an exciting year in Tacoma.”
On working with Dwight Bernard again: “Obviously, I know him quite well and he knows me. I know what kind of job he’s going to do, and what he has always done. There’s a bit of comfort there having a guy that’s been through everything with you in the last five out of six years I’ve been there.”
On new hitting coach Howard Johnson: “I’ve never met him, but I know what kind of player he was back in the late 1980s, and he was a hitting coach with the Mets for a few years. He’s a guy with a lot of experience and he’ll be a good guy to have around our young kids.”
On the outlook for 2013: “At the end of last year, even with the record not being what we would like, we had Carlos Triunfel, Nick Franklin, Danny Hultzen, Vinnie Catricala… with these young kids, getting their feet wet in Triple-A, it should be an exciting year this year. Any time you are looking at having young kids at a high level, there is a lot of room to improve and it is fun as a coach to watch these kids improve as the year goes on.”
Personally, I’m happy to have Daren and Dwight back in the fold – not only do I have a good working relationship with these two guys, but I count them as friends. They’ve done a fine job leading the team the last seven years, and they are not to blame for the struggles of the 2012 club – that was a roster construction problem, and not a manager/coaching letdown.
On the medical and conditioning side of things, we welcome back Tom Newberg for his seventh season as the Rainiers head trainer, and his 27th year in the Mariners organization. He’ll be joined by assistant trainer BJ Downie (who served as a Rainiers strength and conditioning coach several seasons ago), and new performance specialist Rob Fumagalli.
- Here’s a list of all of the Mariners minor league coaching staffs from The News Tribune. Of note: ex-Rainiers catcher Jim Horner is back in the organization as High Desert manager after two years coaching at Texas Tech University, and the M’s hired longtime PCL outfielder Chris Prieto to manage short-season Pulaski.
- The Winter Meetings ended yesterday and the Mariners came home empty – for now, Ryan Divish writes.
- If you can get past the schmaltzy Simon & Garfunkel video on his blog, Divish reveals that he, too, believes that the Mariners will land one of Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, or Michael Bourn.
- Larry Stone says that the Mariners shouldn’t hesitate to sign Josh Hamilton.
- Check out the Baseball Reference page of new hitting coach Howard Johnson.
- At least one minor league baseball expert thinks that the team logos have gone too far. Read it for the sub-heading “I’ve Got An Ostrich On My Head.”
- John McGrath weighs in on the departure of sports radio host Mike Gastineau.
Have a great weekend!
* as Mariners fans we often lament bad trades. Well, every team makes bad trades: in December 1984 the Detroit Tigers traded the 24-year-old Howard Johnson to the Mets straight up for fungible veteran pitcher Walt Terrell. Johnson would become a two-time all-star and hit 209 big league home runs after the deal.