SEATTLE -- A Mariners team looking for a fresh start has turned to a skipper looking for a second shot of his own, as Lloyd McClendon was introduced as Seattle's new manager on Thursday.
McClendon, 54, is one of five Major League managers hired this offseason but the first with any prior big league experience, as Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik went with a man who led the Pirates from 2001-05 before spending the past eight years as a coach on Jim Leyland's staff in Detroit.
The club announced the hire on Tuesday and held a news conference Thursday at Safeco Field.
"I think this is a golden opportunity for me and this is a golden time for the Seattle Mariners," McClendon said. "I think there's nothing but good things for this organization and I certainly think we're heading in the right direction. I know the last three or four years have been very tough and very disappointing. But I was asked a question earlier today: Does this team remind you at all of the Pittsburgh Pirates? And I said no, it reminds me of the Detroit Tigers. And I mean that sincerely. This team reminds me so much of the 2006 Tigers and the potential that was with that team. I'm really excited and honored to be here. Hopefully we'll do great things here."
The 2006 Tigers, three seasons removed from losing 119 games, won the American League pennant.
"Lloyd McClendon is a very impressive gentleman, not only his background as a player ... he was a bullpen coach, a hitting coach, managed at one point in time and I believe all of us were very comfortable with him," Zduriencik, who was the Pirates' director of scouting from 1991-93, when McClendon played for Pittsburgh, said. "We've got a very, very sincere and outstanding person. A very strong personality, but it's a personality that I think you're all going to gravitate to."
Zduriencik conducted talks with five finalists to replace Eric Wedge, with McClendon among those brought to Seattle for a second interview. The other finalists were A's bench coach Chip Hale, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, former Mariners second baseman and longtime White Sox bench coach Joey Cora, and Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach.
McClendon was the only one of those candidates with a track record of Major League managing experience, but the Mariners bucked this offseason's trend after the Reds promoted pitching coach Bryan Price, the Nationals hired former D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams and the Tigers opted for former catcher Brad Ausmus, none of whom has sat in the manager's chair at any level of pro ball. The Cubs hired Renteria on Thursday.
McClendon had a 336-446 record when Pittsburgh was in the middle of a 20-year run of losing seasons, then was immediately hired by Leyland and was regarded as a big part of the Tigers' success as they reached the American League Championship Series four times and the World Series twice during his eight years.
He didn't have a tremendous record managing a young Pirates team, but his 72 wins in 2002, 75 in '03 and 72 in '04 were the most victories by any Pittsburgh team over an 11-year period from 2000-10.
"I was a young energetic manager that had my moments. I certainly tried to be a players' manager, quote-unquote," McClendon said. "I think the players respected me. They understood that I was going to be out there and supporting them. But I think the biggest thing I got from that is get them ready and then get out of their way."
McClendon will inherit a Seattle club featuring two of the American League's top pitchers in Felix Hernandez and AL Cy Young Award finalist Hisashi Iwakuma, as well as a promising group of young pitching prospects and position players looking to move forward.
McClendon interviewed with the Mariners in 2010, when they hired Wedge, and he was under consideration to replace Leyland for the Tigers, who instead named Ausmus their new skipper on Sunday.
McClendon becomes the 19th manager in Mariners history, including three interim skippers, since the franchise was formed in 1977. Since Lou Piniella resigned following the 2002 season, the club has had seven managers -- Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman, Don Wakamatsu, interim skipper Daren Brown and Wedge -- and none posted a winning record during his tenure.
Wedge stepped down after going 71-91 in his third season at the helm, citing differences of opinion with club management.
McClendon is a veteran of 33 years in professional baseball, including 16 years as a player after being selected in the eighth round of the 1980 Draft by the Mets as a catcher out of Valparaiso University. He converted to an outfielder/first baseman in the Majors and spent eight seasons with the Reds, Cubs and Pirates from 1987-94 while batting .244 in 570 games.
The native of Gary, Ind., began his coaching career as the Pirates' roving Minor League hitting instructor in 1996, then was promoted to the Pirates' Major League hitting coach job from 1997-2000 before becoming manager in 2001.
After his five years as the Pirates' skipper, McClendon joined Leyland's staff in Detroit as bullpen coach for one year, then hitting instructor the past seven years.