The purging of the Mariners coaching staff continued this week when the team informed pitching coach Carl Willis that he wasn’t coming back despite having a year left on his contract. Bullpen coach Jaime Navarro — who had been interested in becoming pitching coach in the event Willis wasn’t retained — was instead told today that he would be re-assigned within the team’s minor league ranks.
And first base coach Mike Brumley, who also had a year left on his Mariners deal, told the team earlier in the week that he was taking an assistant hitting coach position with the Chicago Cubs. The Mariners had given Brumley permission to interview elsewhere, uncertain of whether he’d be retained on the staff under new manager Lloyd McClendon.
Earlier this month, bench coach Robby Thompson was fired by the team ahead of McClendon’s hiring. Third base coach Jeff Datz was told he’d be re-assigned to a scouting position if he chose to remain with the organization.
Like Thompson, pitching coach Willis was seen as very close to former manager Eric Wedge. The team had left Willis’s fate unresolved and gave him permission to interview for pitching coach jobs in Baltimore and then again late last week with the Philadelphia Phillies.
When Willis was told he hadn’t gotten either job, he phoned Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik yesterday to try to figure out whether he still had a future in Seattle.
“He told me he felt it would be too awkward for me to come back with everything that had happened,” Willis said, referring to Wedge’s abrupt departure from the organization at season’s end and stated differences with the way the team was being run by the front offfice and ownership.
Willis says he understands new manager McClendon wanting the right to bring in his own coaching staff. For now, Willis is still exploring other opportunities with various clubs and hopes to hear something soon.
He says he encouraged Navarro to seek the pitching coach job with the Mariners in the event he wasn’t kept on and was sorry to hear from a reporter that Navarro wasn’t going to be considered.
As for the remaining coaching staff, only third base coach Daren Brown — who took over for Datz when he was stricken with cancer — and hitting coach Dave Hansen remain, along with bullpen catcher Jason Phillips. Brown was recently given permission to interview with the Reds for their third base coaching vancany.
Datz has yet to tell the Mariners whether he’ll accept their scouting offer.