John Stearns couldn’t be John Stearns. His body wouldn’t allow it
Full of enthusiasm, constantly on the move and never quiet, the former all-star catcher brings a level of energy to the field and clubhouse that is rare in baseball. It’s one of the reasons why manager Lloyd McClendon hired him to be his third base coach for the upcoming season.
But in the past week, Stearns began to realize he couldn’t be that person. After having surgery for a hiatal hernia on February 24, Stearns realized the road back to full health was going to more difficult than expected. With it likely to be that way for some time, Stearns knew he couldn’t move forward in his role. Stearns informed general manager Jack Zdureincik and manager Lloyd McClendon that he needed to step down as third base coach.
“I am not physically able to perform the role of third base coach yet, and it appears that I will not be able to perform the job until the middle of April,” he said. “It is not fair to the organization, to Lloyd or to the players for me to expect to jump back in after not being able to participate in the bulk of spring training. I have asked Jack to re-assign me within the organization, and he has agreed to do so”
Zduriencik said Stearns will move over into the pro-scouting department once he’s healthy enough to work full time.
To fill Stearns role, Rich Donnelly, who was hired to be the manager of Class AAA Tacoma, has been promoted to third base coach. Donnelly has been serving as third base coach in Cactus League games during Stearns’ absence. Donnelly has worked as a major league coach for 27 seasons and was a third base coach for the Pirates (1993-95), Marlins (1997-98), Rockies (1999-2002), Brewers (2003-2005) and Dodgers (2006 and 2007).
Zduriencik said a decision will be made on the Rainiers manager in the next few days. With minor league camp not officially started and most of the projected Rainiers players still in big league camp, they have some time to make the decision.
Obviously the logical candidate for the Rainiers job is Daren Brown, who is the all time leader in managerial wins with Tacoma at 376. He served as the manager for every season since 2007. In 2010, he left the Rainiers to serve as interim manager for the Mariners after Don Wakmatsu was fired. Last season, he was brought up from Tacoma to serve as third base coach when Jeff Datz began undergoing cancer treatment. This year he was re-assigned as minor league roving bunting and base-running instructor.
Another candidate is Jim Pankovitz, who served as manager of Class AA Jackson from 2011 to 2013.