Hitting is in Lloyd McClendon’s blood. The Seattle Mariners hope some of it flows into an offense that scored the third fewest runs in the American League last season. Infusing Robinson Cano into the lineup will help make that possible, as will the expertise of the club’s new manager.
The highly-regarded Howard Johnson is Seattle’s new hitting coach, but McClendon’s influence will be inevitable. He spent the past seven seasons as the hitting coach in Detroit, and previously served in that capacity for the Pirates. This is the second time McClendon has moved from the batting cage to the manager’s office. He did so with Pittsburgh, so he knows how to separate the two positions.
McClendon shared some of his philosophies during this week’s winter meetings in Orlando.
McClendon on managing: “Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned [since managing in Pittsburgh from 2001-2005] is to stand back. Get your players prepared to try to win a ballgame, then get out their way. Let them play the game. I was a young manager my first time around, and my intensity probably overshadowed my players at times. I think it’s important to stand back and let them do their thing.”
On giving up outs: “Depending on the situation, the good old fashioned bunt still works, but only to a certain extent. I’m very reluctant to give up those outs. There are factors that come into play. Is the guy swinging the bat well at that particular time, or is he in a slump? Can having a productive out in this situation help him in his next five at bats? But I hate giving up outs.”
On working counts: “For the most part, that comes with knowledge. It comes with years of playing. If you look at this year’s Red Sox team, they had some guys who had been through the wars. David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli — guys like that know how to work counts. It’s a talent. A lot of young players don’t understand the difference between working the count and working for a walk. Those are two different things. The guys in Boston understood how to work the count.”
On having a good approach: “I’m a believer in knowing who the guy is on the mound — what he’s capable of doing and what his tendencies are. Is he a sinkerball pitcher or a fly ball pitcher? Is he a strikeout guy? If he’s a strikeout guy, maybe you want to approach him a little differently. If he’s a guy with heavy sink and has problems controlling the strike zone, maybe your approach is a little different. It depends on who is on the mound that day.
“Scouting, statistical analysis, film — all of those things come into play. You want to make sure your players are studying, and preparing themselves from a mental standpoint. You need them to take an approach and make sure those things are in place. You have to make sure they’re happening. Once they have that knowledge, let them go out and do their thing.”
On separating roles: “Hitting coach is the hardest job in all of baseball. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. Having the opportunity to step back, away from it, is very relieving in a way. But it’s in my blood. I want to see guys do well. If I see a guy making a mistake in a certain area, we’ll certainly try to address it.
“I’ll communicate that to my hitting coach and let him tell the player. I think that’s important. Listen, I was a hitting guy, and the last thing you want is somebody coming up while you’re trying to express something to a hitter and telling him what he’s doing wrong. I think a manager has to tell it to his coach and let him convey it. Let that credibility come from him.”
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