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McLaren takes over Mariners

McLaren takes over Mariners

SEATTLE -- There is nothing John McLaren did while preparing himself to become a Major League manager someday that covered the circumstances that finally turned his dream into reality.

Almost 24 hours after walking into manager Mike Hargrove's office at Safeco Field early Saturday afternoon, and then emerging with the news that he would become the Mariners skipper immediately following Sunday afternoon's series finale against the visiting Blue Jays, McLaren still wrestled with the sudden change in his career -- from bench coach and right-hand man to Hargrove in the dugout.

"I have always wanted to manage," he said, "but not on terms like this. I'm so happy, but I'm sad. I am an emotional guy, and this has really been a roller coaster for my emotions. I had no idea something like this was going to happen."

Not many did.

In an out-of-the-blue move on Sunday, Hargrove resigned as the Mariners manager and was replaced by McLaren, effective Monday night when Seattle opens a three-game series against the Royals in Kansas City.

"This is not the perfect scenario for taking over a ballclub, but Mike gave me his blessing and that meant a lot," McLaren said during a pregame press conference. "I have waited for this day and my emotions are running high. I feel confident, and [Monday] I'll be ready to go."

What kind of manager are the Mariners getting in the 55-year-old McLaren?

"I have worked with a lot of good managers, Jimy Williams, Cito Gaston, Joe Morgan, Mike Hargrove and, of course, Lou [Piniella]," he said. "I have learned from all of them. I have a lot of Lou in me, but I'm not going to be kicking bases."

McLaren, who accompanied Piniella to Seattle from Cincinnati prior to the 1993 season and also went with him to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays prior to the '02 season, could have gone to the Cubs with Piniella this season. He opted instead to return to "a city and organization that I love," and become Hargrove's bench coach.

Little did he know that he would become the manager prior to the All-Star break, especially with the team playing so well, being in second place in the AL West, just four games behind the Angels, and riding an eight-game winning streak on the night he officially takes over the reigns.

The managerial transition could take some time. And how much time it takes looms large.

"He's patient," veteran outfielder Raul Ibanez said. "He'll pat you on the back when you need it, and kick you in the tail when you need it. I've been around him for a while, and he's well-liked and respected."

That mirrored the overall attitude of the players inside the home clubhouse.

"It would be really difficult if they brought in someone from the outside," closer J.J. Putz said. "But since Mac has been so hands-on with this team from the get-go as Grover's right-hand man, making some decisions in the game, knowing all the players on the team and us knowing him, I think it's going to be a pretty smooth transition."

Right-hander Jeff Weaver said, "Mac's been here since day one this year. He knows what we're all about, and everybody has a good relationship with him, so hopefully that transition will be minimal. There are different things that go on every year, every series, every week that you have to adapt and adjust to, and this is one of them."

Before ending the press conference announcing his decision to resign, Hargrove said the players shouldn't miss a beat with their new manager.

"In my 12 years in the big leagues, I played for 11 different managers, so we changed managers a lot," Hargrove said. "They'll be OK. If I felt like me leaving would be a big detriment to what's going on, then I might have second thoughts. I don't. These guys are good, strong people. They've got good hearts, and they care a lot about each other and about winning. So they're going to be OK."

General manager Bill Bavasi said the Mariners are "lucky" to already have McLaren on board.

"I believe Mac provides us with an opportunity to have as seamless a transition as possible. He knows the club and has been intimately involved in every decision we've made this season. We had a chance to see him run the club for a few days earlier this season, and I have every confidence that he will help us achieve the goals we've set."

That being said, Bavasi added, "We understand that this is a real tough move for us. We have confidence that we can handle this, but not very easily. We will succeed."

McLaren, who becomes the 12th full-time manager in franchise history, and has agreed to a contract for the remainder of the 2007 season, has been a big-league coach for nearly two decades, including 11 with the Mariners -- the most seasons served by any coach in franchise history.

"I am really looking forward to the challenge of taking over this club and continuing to build on what Mike has established here," he said. "When I came back here, I said I wanted to be a part of taking this team back to the postseason, and back to what our fans expect and deserve. That's still the case. My focus, and the focus of every one of my coaches is to help these players achieve what they are capable of, and that's getting this team back to the postseason."

Jim Street 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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