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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

October 22, 2012 at 12:42 PM

New M’s hitting coach Dave Hansen eager for challenge

hansenstands.jpg

(This picture from 2004 spring training shows Dave Hansen, left, standing with Willie Bloomquist and Scott Spiezio. Seattle Times staff photo).

Dave Hansen nearly became the Mariners hitting coach on Eric Wedge’s initial staff in 2011, but the manager opted for Chris Chambliss instead.

“It was really close,” Hansen said. “It was just between the hitting coach they had (Chambliss) and myself, from what I understand. At that time I didn’t have, I don’t think, quite the experience they were looking for. I needed to go get that experience, which I do have now.”

And now Hansen is the Mariners’ new hitting coach, replacing Chambliss, who was fired after two years. Here’s the initial story I wrote on the hiring, announced today. We just got off a conference call with Hansen, who is eager to begin his new challenge.

“I’m super excited to get in front of this young group of talented Mariners,” he said. “We have young kids that are hungry. With another year of experience under their belt, I think they’re ready to take their game to the next level. I’m excited to be part of that.”

It didn’t work out for Hansen in a season and a half with the Dodgers, and he was fired as hitting coach after the season. What most likely did him in was the Dodgers’ month-long slump after acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto from the Red Sox on Aug. 25 (along with Carl Crawford, who was sidelined with an injury and didn’t play). They went 12-17 over their next 29 games, hitting .240 while averaging 3.3 runs per game. The Dodgers had made another big acquisition a month earlier, acquiring Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins on July 25. One of Hansen’s more frustrating days on the job was June 8, when the Dodgers were no-hit by six Mariners pitchers.

“It’s a tough job, just because when the team is not hitting, or things aren’t clicking, that’s who they look to, the hitting coach,” he said. “Usually it’s them that has to move on, not the players.”

But Hansen found himself in demand when the Dodgers cut him loose 10 days ago. He said multiple teams called, but the Mariners were first to call — “within hours,” he said.

“Other teams were involved as the process went on, but Jack and Eric were persistent,” he said. “They had been keeping an eye on me since our first interview two years ago. They just wanted to make it happen, and I was more than happy to do the same. I’m really, really excited to be back. It feels good they were tracking me and wanted me back real bad.”

Asked about his hitting philosophy, Hansen laughed and said, “We need a sitdown for that one. In a nutshell, my general approach is that we need to create pressure on the defense. Obviously, our No. 1 goal is to touch home plate, period, and we need to take the necessary steps as a club to do that. That takes one through nine with the same type of mentality — how can I get on base; how can I drive in runs? How can I do the little things that helps us accomplish that? Everyone has their own approach to execute the game plan.”

In discussing the Mariners team he will inherit, Hansen said he is somewhat familiar with Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager, Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and Franklin Gutierrez. He also mentioned shortstop “B.J.” Ryan, but, hey, he’s only been a Mariner for a matter of hours.

“There’s a lot of work to do — video work, paper work, but most importantly I have to meet them and start to develop a relationship with them,” he said. “They need to know who I am and what I’m about. It’s so important to have that mutual respect and understanding for us to move forward. Just in the small study I’ve done, we have some talent. There are guys with really good swings, aggressive hitters. They need a little more direction, but I like the style of play Eric has created here already. There’s a great nucleus of kids who truly buy into the Mariner way. I’m fortunate to actually jump in with them.”

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