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July 13, 2014 at 11:57 AM

Mariners’ Lloyd McClendon: ‘I certainly think this organization in headed in the right direction’

Lloyd McClendon and the Mariners are 51-43 heading into today's game against Oakland. (Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)

Lloyd McClendon and the Mariners are 51-43 heading into today’s game against Oakland. (Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)

Before the Mariners’ final game before the all-star break, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon was asked this morning to sum up the club’s season up to this point. He was also critical of Taijuan Walker’s latest start in Tacoma.

The transcript from the first half of his media briefing this morning:

(What does having four all-stars say about this club?) “I think it speaks volumes about where we’re headed — and obviously what they’ve accomplished this first half — but I think it speaks volumes about where this organization is headed. We’re certainly moving in the right direction. I think in the very near future, there’s going to be more all-stars.”

(Can you sum up first half of season?) “To think about where we’ve come from at my introductory news conference, and I think you guys would all agree, the negativity that was surrounding this club, the doubts, I think this organization has come quite far. I think we’ve accomplished a lot, but in the end we haven’t accomplished anything. But I certainly think we’re headed in the right direction. I think it’s nice for our fans. This weekend, the electricity, the amount of people in the ballpark, I certainly think this organization in headed in the right direction. … My general manager’s taken a lot of heat about where this organization has been and where it’s going, but this organization’s in pretty good shape. And to win the number of games we’ve won in the first half is significant for a number of reasons. But if you think about this organization and the pieces that we have within the system, if we wanted to do some things, it’s pretty damn good. If we wanted to reach out to other clubs, it’s pretty darn good, and I don’t think there’s a lot of clubs in baseball that are like that.”

(When you left Peoria in late March, is this what you thought you had?) “No, I can’t say that because — and I said this coming out of spring training — I didn’t know what kind of club I had. And I didn’t think I would know until we were 50, 60 games into the season, so no I didn’t think that. I thought our pitching was going to be pretty good. I didn’t know about our offense — I still don’t know about our offense. But I know our pitching’s pretty darn good; our bullpen’s been better than I thought it was going to be. So I like where we are.”

(What, if anything, has surprised you?) “What has surprised me? That you guys (in the media) are starting to get on board. … I’m not facetious when I say that. When I got here, a lot of negativity was in this room. And I’m not trying to bash anybody. My God, I’ve never seen anything like it — the Mariners were the worst thing that ever (expletive) lived when I got here. I couldn’t believe it, and I think people are starting to believe in us a little bit. The walks downtown are a little bit more pleasant now.”

(Is this a postseason club?) “Listen, I think if we continue to pitch the way we’re pitching, and if we stay healthy from an offensive standpoint, we’ve got as good a shot as anybody, yeah. Do we have challenges? Absolutely we have challenges. We all know that. I know this: When you can shut down other teams, it makes those challenges a little easier to climb. So far our pitching’s been shut-down-type of pitching, so we’ll see. We’ll see.”

(It looked like Taijuan Walker threw pretty well last night in Tacoma.) “Well, I guess I see things differently than most people. I don’t see that as a good outing: five innings, 83 pitches and one strikeout, that’ not a good outing for me. And I’m not trying to bash the kid, but how we go about our business and our level of expectations from the minor leagues all the way up to the big leagues, it’s got to change. Five innings, 83 pitches and one strikeout — that’s not a good outing, I’m sorry. Not for me. And you can write it. I don’t give a (expletive). I’m sure his agent will be calling mad at me, but we gotta do better.”

McClendon said that the rotation coming out of the all-star break against the Angels will be Iwakuma, Hernandez, Young, Elias and TBA.

(on Robinson Cano) “For the most part, he’s done a nice job. We’ve had a couple of conversations during the course of the first half, just to remind him, ‘Take your walks. Don’t try to force the issue.’ He had the one funk when we were in Miami, when he was going outside the zone; I think he did it maybe one other time here at home, but other than that he’s been fine. He’s been great. But I’ve see this guy hot; I’m not sure if you guys have. He’s getting there, but he’s not quite there yet. He can do some things that leave you scratching your head and you’re saying, ‘Wow, how did he do that?’”

(on Kyle Seager’s defense) “He has really, really excelled with the glove. … He’s put the time in. That 4 o’clock hour, he’s working hard. Woody (Chris Woodward) has done a great job with him. His footwork, centering the ball a lot better, reading hops. That double play he turned (on Friday) was just phenomenal, a little short hop — that’s not an easy play, and it leaves you saying ‘Wow.’ That was a big play in that game. He’s really come a long way.”

(What was your reaction to negativity when you first got here?) “I was probably more shocked than anything. Listen, I get it. I’ve been there, done that from my days in Pittsburgh in an organization that’s struggled. But coming in, I was on the outside looking in, so I really didn’t know. And I was a little shocked, a little taken back. But what was strange was when I had the opportunity to walk downtown and visit with people, it was not the same thoughts. People were encouraged by what this club was doing. It was mixed signals. I had to coach you guys (in the media) a little bit; bring you guys along. I’m still — you guys need to listen a little more — but it’s getting better (laughs).”

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