The coaching staff Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu has assembled so far definitely has an American League West look to it. The latest addition, third-base coach Bruce Hines, spent the past three seasons as the Angels' Minor League field coordinator, overseeing outfield, baserunning and bunting instruction. With only the hitting coach position remaining, every new Mariners coach has had a connection with the AL West at some point during his playing/coaching career.
"I spent my whole career in the West division, and I have a comfort level in the guys I am bringing in," Wakamatsu said during a conference call Thursday afternoon. "It's important to bring in other guys from that division. It makes us familiar with our enemies." Among the traits that led to the first four coaches -- bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, first-base coach Lee Tinsley, pitching coach Rick Adair and bullpen coach John Wetteland -- being hired, the thing that stood out most in Hines is his ability to connect with players and make them better. "One of the most important things to me is ability to relate to players," Wakamatsu said. "I am adamant about that. I want coaches who can get the best out of the players, and that is the common denominator in putting this staff together. I have seen them work before, and Bruce is one of best communicators I have been around." Hines, whose father, Ben, coached for the Mariners in 1984, has previous coaching experience with the Angels, serving as the first-base coach. He also managed for seven years in the Minor Leagues with the Angels ('85-'86, '95-'97) and Athletics ('92-'93), and also coached third base. "I might be a little rusty for the first two weeks of Spring Training," he said, "but I love [coaching] third base. Every good third-base coach wants to make the right decision 100 percent of the time. Someone will get thrown out [at home] now and then, but if they don't, you're not pressing the envelope." Though Hines said he was perfectly happy with his prior job, he was attracted to Seattle the day Wakamatsu was introduced at Safeco Field as the Mariners manager. He watched the press conference primarily because of his longtime friendship with the new manager, a friendship that started in 1989 when they were at Arizona State. "I care about Wak, and we talk maybe two or three times a year," Hines said. "I always knew him as a dynamic individual. So, I am watching this press conference, thinking, 'He knows me and knows what I bring,' so I might have a chance [to become a coach with Seattle]." But Hines already had a job and wasn't about to pick up the phone and call his friend to inquire about another job. "When I didn't get a call the first week, I figured that he has made a lot of contacts along the way, and Jack probably had some people in mind, so they had found someone," said Hines, referring to GM Jack Zduriencik. "I thought, 'good for them.' I don't think my name entered the mix until later on." It wasn't until he received a text message from Van Burkleo that Hines learned that his name was on the list of coaching candidates. Wakamatsu acknowledged Thursday that he talked to other third-base coaching candidates before zeroing in on Hines, who speaks fluent Spanish and will work with the Mariners' infielders. "We filtered through a lot of people," Wakamatsu said. "The list was extremely long. But his name kept coming back to us." The Mariners asked their division rivals for permission to talk to Hines, and the deal flourished from there. "Bruce is a high-energy guy who develops great relationships with players and is very well respected," Zduriencik said in a press release. Wakamatsu said he hopes that Hines can teach the Mariners some of the things the Angels have done in the past several seasons while winning four division championships and one World Series. "They are the strongest team in our division, and there's a reason for it," the manager said. "The Angels are known for their aggressive style of play." The addition of Hines leaves the Mariners one coach away from being complete, and the hitting coach could be selected as early as Friday. It still appears that Jose Castro, who had the position for four months last season, is the leading candidate. If he is retained, he would be the only one without a previous working relationship with Wakamatsu. But he does qualify for having spent time in the AL West.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.