Stearns fills in as third-base coach on short notice

SEATTLE -- With Jeff Datz recovering from medical tests on his recently diagnosed cancer, Minor League catching coordinator John Stearns filled in again as Seattle's third-base coach Tuesday night against the Orioles.

Stearns' only previous Major League experience as a third-base coach was in 2000-01 with the Mets, but he's spent another 10 years on the job in the Minors, including as recently as four seasons ago.

To get him re-acclimated, the Mariners sent him to Class A High Desert on Saturday to coach third for a game, then he joined the club Monday in Seattle, initially expecting to just watch through the rest of the homestand before replacing Datz on the upcoming road trip.

But three hours before game time on Monday, he was told Datz wasn't feeling well and Stearns was in the game.

"I said, 'Wow, I don't even know the signs,'" Stearns said with a smile on Tuesday after spending the past 24 hours studying. "You can't just learn those signs in an hour up here."

Stearns said he wasn't put in any difficult situations Monday and felt better heading into Tuesday's contest. But he noted the reason he was getting his latest Major League shot wasn't a good one.

"It's very unfortunate," Stearns said. "It's not about John Stearns coming up here. This is about me coming here to hold the fort and us getting Jeff Datz well and standing behind him and building him up as much as we can. That's my goal. I don't expect to be here all year, we want Datzy to be well. However long he needs to be out, I'll try to do as good a job as he's already done and established here."

Manager Eric Wedge said Stearns likely would work Wednesday's game as well and then the situation will be decided on a day-to-day basis. Datz told the team he'd been diagnosed with cancer on Saturday but has yet to reveal publicly what type of the disease he's facing.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.