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June 17, 2009 at 9:13 AM

Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu named as AL all-star team coach

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The Mariners have their first all-star announced, nearly a month before the Midsummer Classic, and it’s manager Don Wakamatsu. He was named as a coach by AL all-star manager Joe Maddon this morning. Wakamatsu was asked back in April, when Maddon and his Rays were in town for a series, whether he would be interested in giving up his time off during the break to be a coach.
Wakamatsu told me a few days later, when I asked him, that he’d accepted the position, but asked that it not be publicized because he’d given Maddon his word that he would not let the news get out. He also wanted to leave Maddon the option of changing his mind. So, now the news is out.
“Of course I told him ‘yes’,” Wakamatsu said at the time. “It’s a great honor to make it to an All-Star Game. I wouldn’t pass that up for anything.”
Trey Hillman of the Royals will join Wakamatsu on the AL staff.
There are a few more World Series rings on the NL coaching side, with manager Charlie Manuel of the defending-champion Phillies naming both Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa as coaches.
So, who else is going to go to the game in a Mariners uniform?
Ichiro seems a lock. Ken Griffey Jr. perhaps. How about Russell Branyan? And then, as we discussed this morning on the Talkin’ Baseball segment, Felix Hernandez is also making a push for late inclusion. At 7-3 with a 2.77 ERA, he’s now seventh in ERA and tied for third in wins.
Wakamatsu had a little something to do with that. Hernandez is 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA in five starts since the manager called him out on hius lack of focus during a game with the Angels. Since then, Hernandez has been locked-in. Sometimes, all it takes is a push with some of these players. It was a bold move by first-year manager Wakamatsu, new to a franchise that’s done too much coddling of players who’ve achieved little in the standings the past five years. But Wakamatsu did it and Hernandez has responded like a champion.
That example alone is a good reason Wakamatsu deserves to go to the all-star game.
Yes, the Mariners do have three pitchers — Hernandez, Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn — in the league’s top-10 for ERA. It’s one of the reasons they’re the best pitching team in the AL by a country mile in terms of ERA at the moment — at 3.68 as a staff compared to 4.05 by the second-best Royals.
I won’t go beyond those stats where Hernandez is concerned because, trust me, if he’s added on it won’t be because of his FIP. Win a couple of more outings like he did last night and it will be tough to ignore Hernandez.
And hey, with this stretch against NL opponents, it’s entirely possible Hernandez can dominate that way. And he’s done similar stuff in New York and Boston — where the Mariners head next — as well, so I won’t rule anything out.
But what do you think? Can a sub.-500 team hope to send four all-stars? Or will some of these guys have to watch on TV?



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