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Mariners tab Cockrell as hitting coach

Mariners tab Cockrell as hitting coach

LAS VEGAS -- When he picked up the telephone that was ringing inside his Colorado Springs home last week, Alan Cockrell had no idea it was a call that would get him back to the Major Leagues.

After two seasons as the Rockies hitting coach -- one very good and one not so good -- Cockrell was dismissed at the end of the regular season. He immediately went job hunting and agreed to become a Minor League coach with the Braves.

But the caller that day was Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu.

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Within a few days, the Mariners had received permission from the Braves to talk to Cockrell about the hitting coach job vacancy in Seattle, offered it to him, reached an agreement on what he called "my 26th one-year contract," and was officially announced on Sunday as the team's next hitting coach.

He replaces Jose Castro, who had been regarded as the front-runner after spending the final four months of last season as the hitting coach.

But in the end, the entire coaching staff was replaced.

"I'm excited about this, very excited," Cockrell said from his offseason home. "This is a great situation. Everyone on the staff knows everyone else extremely well and all have the same philosophy -- stay positive and communicate."

Wakamatsu's first coaching staff also includes Ty Van Burkleo (bench), Bruce Hines (third base), Lee Tinsley (first-base), Rick Adair (pitching), John Wetteland (bullpen) and Cockrell.

"We are very pleased with the group of Major League coaches that Don and our baseball operations staff have put together," general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "Alan shares the key strengths of the other coaches in this group: great energy, an ability to teach and a passion to help players perform to the best of their abilities."

Under Cockrell's guidance in 2007, the Rockies finished first in the National League with a .280 team batting average, while the club also led the league in hits and on-base percentage and reached the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

But last season was a complete turnaround.

The situational hitting that was so good in 2007 faltered.

"We went through some devastating injuries early in the year and it carried over throughout the year," he said. "We didn't have our starting eight guys on the field for six weeks at a time the entire season.

"It was difficult to get any continuity going and when the injured guys came back, they tried too hard to get their numbers up where they should be. In hitting, trying harder is not always better."

Cockrell acknowledged that he doesn't know all that much about the Mariners hitters, but watching them on film and talking to them on the phone between now and Spring Training will give him a good idea of what makes each of them tick.

"I'm in the process of formulating my thoughts," he said.

His goal is to get everyone on the same, fundamental page -- getting on base, advancing runners, driving them in.

"I have seen it work and it's a beautiful thing," he said. "Some unbelievable things can happen when everyone adopts a selfless attitude."

The Mariners' hitters have a reputation of being too aggressive and swinging at too many pitches early in the count. But Cockrell believes he can change that mindset to the point where the hitters take more pitches, build pitch counts and get to the opponents' bullpen earlier.

"But I think the biggest thing for a hitting coach is someone who can communicate, someone who lets the guys know that he's there for them," Cockrell said. "You earn that trust and you have to go it hard everyday."

And that's exactly what he intends to do.

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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