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McLaren hired as Seattle's bench coach

McLaren hired as Seattle's bench coach

SEATTLE -- The easiest part for John McLaren was telling the Mariners that he would accept an offer to become their bench coach in 2007.

The toughest part, the one that got the 55-year-old McLaren so choked up with emotions, was telling newly appointed Cubs manager and longtime friend Lou Piniella that he wouldn't be joining him in Chicago.

"The toughest thing I've ever had to do was call Lou and tell him that I was leaving after 14 years together," McLaren said on Thursday from his home in Peoria, Ariz. "But I felt that good about this job. Lou was so good about it. He put me at ease. I was emotional. I told him I made a gut decision."

Days after the Cubs had made him a similar offer to become their bench coach, McLaren opted to return to the city that has always been close to his heart, the city where he spent 11 seasons alongside Piniella.

McLaren is coming back to Seattle.

"My feelings toward Seattle are extremely strong," said McLaren, who was on Piniella's staff in several capacities from 1993 to 2003. "I love the city and the ballpark. There are a million things that go through my head when I think about Seattle -- 'Refuse to Lose,' Ken Griffey's head sticking out from under that pile in 1995.

"I think about Seattle when I close my eyes."

Now he won't have to, after accepting manager Mike Hargrove's offer to succeed Ron Hassey, who resigned in September after he was informed that he would not be offered a contract for 2007.

"We had a very good interview here in Arizona, and I think he will work well with me, and with the rest of the staff," Hargrove said. "John is a knowledgeable, talented baseball guy. His substantial experience as a bench coach and his abilities as a catching instructor make him a great fit for us. He's also been a great part of the Mariners, having spent a decade in Seattle in a variety of coaching roles. I think he's a great addition to our coaching staff."

The Mariners also announced on Thursday that the remaining coaches from last season -- pitching coach Rafael Chaves, third base coach Carlos Garcia, bullpen coach Jim Slaton, hitting coach Jeff Pentland and first base coach Mike Goff -- will return next season.

McLaren ended up back in Seattle almost by accident.

He had already talked several times with the Cubs about becoming their bench coach, and an offer was made. He would have been reunited with Piniella, with whom McLaren worked in Seattle and in Tampa Bay for three seasons.

"The day after the Cubs made their offer, I was at a [Arizona] Fall League game and got a call from Lee Pelekoudas [Seattle's vice president and associate general manager]. He asked if I had signed with the Cubs. I told him I hadn't."

The next day, McLaren met with Pelekoudas and Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi, as well as Hargrove.

"I have known Mike for years, battled against him going back to his days in Cleveland and Baltimore," said McLaren, who spent last season as a scout for the Devil Rays. "It was an acquaintance thing because I don't know Bill all that well. They asked some questions. I liked what they had to say. They've got a good team. I don't think they're that far off."

After consulting with his wife, McLaren accepted the Mariners' offer.

So what will McLaren bring to the job? Aside from such in-game duties as strategy and making suggestions to Hargrove, McLaren said, a large part of his duties will be monitoring the pulse of the team.

"I try to patrol the clubhouse, get the mood of the players, look at their body language and keep a dialogue with them," he said. "I'll try to see who is down, and I will try to get them to relax. That's always been my strong suit."

McLaren is entering his 37th season in professional baseball and his 21st as a Major League coach. He spent 10 seasons with Seattle, serving as bullpen (1993-94), bench (1995, 1998-2002) and third base (1996-97) coach.

McLaren also was a Major League coach with Toronto (third base, 1986-90), Boston (bullpen, 1991) and Cincinnati (third base, 1992).

Hargrove also lauded the members of his staff who will return next season.

"This is a talented, hard-working, professional staff," he said. "Each member is dedicated to doing everything possible to help our players improve and to contribute to the Mariners winning ballgames."

Chaves, 38, enters his second season as the Mariners' pitching coach and his ninth as a coach in the Mariners organization.

Garcia, 39, will begin his second full season as third base coach and third as a coach in the organization. He was the Mariners' first base coach for most of 2005 before shifting to third base in September. He will also continue to work with the Major League infielders.

Goff, 44, begins his second year as first base coach with Seattle in 2007 and his 16th season as a coach in the Mariners organization. In addition to his responsibilities as first base coach, Goff will continue coaching the outfielders and baserunning.

Pentland, 60, enters his second season as hitting coach for the Mariners and his 11th as a big-league coach.

Slaton, 56, has been in the Mariners organization for 10 seasons, the last two as the Major League bullpen coach.

M's name Minors MVPs: Frank Mattox, Seattle's director of player development, announced on Thursday the Mariners' Minor League Most Valuable Players.

First baseman Bryan LaHair was named Player of the Year, and right-hander Mark Lowe was named Pitcher of the Year.

LaHair, 23, hit .309 with 16 home runs and 74 RBIs in 114 games combined between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tacoma.

LaHair, who was a member of Team USA for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, was the Mariners' 39th-round selection in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft.

Lowe, 23, split the season between Class A Inland Empire and Double-A San Antonio, going 1-2 with six saves and a 1.96 ERA in 24 games, two of them starts. In 46 innings, he struck out 60 batters and allowed just 10 earned runs.

Lowe was selected by Seattle on July 7 and made his Major League debut that night, tossing one shutout inning. He threw 17 2/3 consecutive shutout innings in 13 games, setting a franchise record for the most consecutive shutout innings to start a career.

Lowe's season ended after he was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 20 with tendinitis in his right elbow. He was transferred to the 60-day disabled list on Sept. 8.

The Mariners tabbed a Most Valuable Player and Pitcher for every level of the Minor League system.

Tacoma: Outfielder Adam Jones, pitcher Cha Seung Baek. San Antonio: Outfielder Wladimir Balentien, pitcher Ryan Feierabend. Inland Empire: Tyler Eastley, pitcher Jose De La Cruz. Class A Wisconsin: Infielder Ron Garth, pitcher Nick Allen. Everett: Infielder Manelik Pimentel, pitcher Nick Allen. Peoria: Infielder Gerardo Avila, pitcher Douglas Salinas. Dominican: Infielder Luis Nunez, pitcher Eddy Fernandez. Venezuelan: Infielder Edilio Colina, pitcher Juan Carlos Ramirez.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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