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Wakamatsu and the six other candidates all interviewed last week and all had zero experience as a manager in the major leagues. The overwhelming fan favorite was former Seattle second baseman and current Chicago White Sox bench coach Joey Cora.
Zduriencik said Wakamatsu got the job because he was a former catcher at Arizona State -- where he played with Barry Bonds -- and in the minors from 1985-96. That last season was as a player-coach for Double-A Port City in the Mariners' system. He was a teammate for 19 games there with Raul Ibanez, Seattle's top RBI producer who is now a free agent deciding whether to stay or leave.
The GM likes the catcher's perspective of constantly considering the totality of games. He noted the Angels' Mike Scioscia as one example of a successful manager who was a catcher.
Zduriencik also liked Wakamatsu's ties to the Northwest. Wakamatsu also lived for two years in suburban Bremerton, Wash., as a grade schooler while his father built one of Seattle's tallest buildings.
And the GM loved that Wakamatsu has spent his major league coaching life in the AL West, which Seattle hasn't won since its last playoff appearance in 2001. Wakamatsu was a minor league catching coordinator for the Anaheim Angels in 2001-02 before going to Texas.
Wakamatsu was raised in Hayward, Calif., after moving out of that house which had been an internment barracks. He knows only a little Japanese, though it has improved lately with his daughter helping him with Berlitz courses. He hopes to learn the language better to relate closely with Suzuki and to improve Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima, who struggled so much last season he was benched months after signing a $24 million, three-year contract extension.
Asked what expectations should be in Seattle after last season ended as the Mariners' worst since 1983, Wakamatsu said: "I'm not going to sit up here (and) promise the moon. Obviously, someone promised the moon last year and it didn't work out.
"I think there's talent. I think there's youth ... I think there's starting pitching that's pretty deep, a pretty good closer.
"Just with osmosis, we ought to be better than we were last year."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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