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Mariners fill out Wedge's coaching staff

Mariners fill out Wedge's coaching staff

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Eric Wedge tried to strike a balance between old and new when picking his 2011 coaching staff, a group he and general manager Jack Zduriencik officially named on Thursday.

From outside the organization come bench coach Robby Thompson and third-base coach Jeff Datz, both of whom Wedge worked with during his seven seasons managing the Indians, as well as veteran hitting coach Chris Chambliss. Returning in their Mariners roles from last season are pitching coach Carl Willis -- who also has ties to Wedge -- and first-base coach Mark Brumley.

Bullpen coach Jaime Navarro was promoted to the Major League staff after three years in the farm system.

"I think it's really important that we had somebody within the organization, somebody outside the organization and somebody connected to last year's staff, too," Wedge said Thursday in a conference call. "We really tried to cover the bases."

Hiring the coaching staff was the first major step for Wedge and Zduriencik as a team. Wedge was hired a little more than two weeks ago.

"We're happy with the staff we were able to put together," Zduriencik said. "Eric and I spent a lot of time together as we considered our needs and desires."

Thompson, who will also oversee infield instruction, spent the past eight seasons as a special assistant to baseball operations with the Indians. Thompson briefly served as Wedge's bench coach in the second half of 2005, but he didn't reprise the role because he wanted to spend more time with his family.

"All three of his kids are playing and they were about to get into high school at that time and he wanted to be there with them," Wedge said. "I guess he's got the empty nest now so he's ready to get back to work."

Thompson, 48, has two sons in pro ball, and another playing in college. He was a two-time All-Star during his 11-year Major League playing career, from 1986-96, spent entirely with the Giants.

Willis spent the last two months as Seattle's pitching coach in 2010, and previously was Wedge's pitching coach for all seven seasons that Wedge was in Cleveland.

"You look at his track record, obviously with CC [Sabathia] and Cliff [Lee], from a development standpoint and so many others," Wedge said of Willis. "Then you also look at bringing in veteran players, such as a [Kevin] Millwood or a [Carl] Pavano ... that were maybe at the crossroads at their career at the time and he got them going."

Wedge knows Chambliss, 61, only from afar. Chambliss has managed the past two seasons at Triple-A Charlotte in the White Sox organization.

Chambliss has 13 years of experience as a Major League hitting coach, with the Yankees (1988, 1996-2000), Cardinals (1993-95), Mets (2002) and Reds (2004-06). He played 17 years in the Majors, and the 2011 season is to be Chambliss' 42nd in professional baseball.

The 50-year-old Datz comes over from the Orioles, where he was the bench coach in 2010. Datz spent eight seasons on the Indians' coaching staff in different capacities, and was Wedge's bench coach from 2007-09. Datz will serve as the catching instructor and will organize the day-to-day in Spring Training in 2011.

"He's someone that does a fantastic job in regard to putting the day together," Wedge said. "When it comes to coaching, he can serve so many different roles, but for our need as a third-base coach, that's what I've asked him to do."

Brumley, 47, split last season between coaching first and third base. In addition to first-base duties next season, he'll oversee baserunning and outfield instruction.

Navarro was pitching coach of the Pacific Coast League champion Rainiers last season, and he's worked with several arms on the Mariners staff in his three years in the system.

Jason Phillips, 34, was also named the bullpen catcher for a third straight season.

Daren Brown, the Mariners' former interim manager who replaced Don Wakamatsu midseason, and interim hitting coach Alonzo Powell will head to Triple-A to take over those same roles, respectively.

Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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