SEATTLE — Just more than a month after finishing their fourth consecutive losing season under general manager Jack Zduriencik, the Mariners hired Lloyd McClendon to be their next manager.
McClendon is the organization’s 16th manager and the third full-time manager since Zduriencik took over in 2009.
He will succeed Eric Wedge, who ran the club from 2011-13 before deciding to leave at the end of the 2013 season because he felt he was no longer on the same page with the organization.
McClendon, 54, was manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates for five seasons (2001-05) and has spent the past eight seasons as a coach for the Detroit Tigers, the last seven as hitting coach.
During his time as the Pirates manager, McClendon was known for a fiery personality. During one notable in-game argument with umpires, he lifted first base out of the ground and walked off the field with it.
McClendon was 336-446 (.430) from 2001 through the first 136 games of the 2005 season as the Pirates’ manager. He had zero winning seasons in Pittsburgh.
“Lloyd is a bright and articulate guy,” Zduriencik said in a press release. “He has Major League managerial experience and has served in a vital capacity in Detroit under one of the game’s best managers. He is a tireless worker and is very respected by the players with whom he has worked. We look forward to Lloyd embracing our players as we move the Mariners forward.”
The Mariners have had just one winning season under Zduriencik, which came in 2009 when they were 85-77. They are 274-374 in the four years since.
During that time, Zduriencik has worked to rebuild the minor league system and the Mariners have played dozens of young players. Seattle’s final lineup in 2013 had seven players who were 26 or younger, including three rookies.
Wedge was expected to be part of that ongoing rebuilding effort. During the final series of the year, he announced he would not return. Zduriencik maintained the organization wanted Wedge back.
“It’s got to the point where it’s painfully obvious to me that I just wasn’t going to be able to move forward with this organization,” Wedge said at the time. “We see things differently and we talked about it but it just got to the point where I couldn’t continue to move forward. Ultimately, I didn’t feel like I could continue to manage here with the circumstances the way they are.”
It was a surprising reversal for someone who abhors giving up and repeatedly said he was all-in with Zduriencik’s approach to resurrecting the woebegone franchise.
That decision opened up the Mariners’ options and led them to five finalists for the managerial job: A’s bench coach Chip Hale, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, former Mariners second baseman and longtime White Sox bench coach Joey Cora, Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach and McClendon.
This was the second time through the Seattle interview process for McClendon. He was a candidate in 2010 after the Mariners fired Don Wakamatsu. Seattle settled on Wedge that time.
“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to manage the Seattle Mariners,” McClendon said. “Seattle has a tremendous group of talented players and the fans and city should be excited about the club’s future. I’m looking for this group to take a big step forward.”
McClendon is a veteran of 34 years in professional baseball as a player, coach, minor league manager, and MLB manager.
Following his playing career, McClendon began his coaching career in 1996 as the Pirates roving minor league hitting instructor. He joined the Pirates big league staff as hitting coach in 1997, a position he held until being promoted to manager in 2001.
McClendon had a 16-year professional playing career (1980-1995). He was selected by the New York Mets in the eighth round of the 1980 Draft. He played in the Majors with Cincinnati (1987-88), the Chicago Cubs (1989-90) and Pittsburgh (1990-94). He was a member of four clubs that won a division title with the Cubs in 1989 and the Pirates from 1990-92. He hit .625 (10-for-16) in 11 games during his three appearances in the National League Championship Series.
He played baseball at Valparaiso University after graduating from Roosevelt High School in Indiana in 1977, where he was an All-State selection in baseball. He participated in the 1971 Little League World Series where he was nicknamed “Legendary Lloyd” after hitting five home runs in five swings and drawing five intentional walks for his Gary, IN, team.
The Mariners expect to introduce McClendon this week.