Zduriencik’s job secure for now, or so it seems

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comDecember 7, 2012 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — General manager Jack Zduriencik is working without a net this season, but with a vote of confidence.

Zduriencik is in the final year of his two-year contract extension with the Seattle Mariners.

There was thought that Zduriencik might have some sort of rollover clause so he is not operating on “lame duck” status this season. It was reported in 2007 and 2008 that then- general manager Bill Bavasi had such a clause in his contract.

On Thursday, Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said no to both queries: Bavasi had no such insurance in his contract, and Zduriencik doesn’t have it either.

While Armstrong wouldn’t elaborate on contract situations, extensions, or any other details, he did say, “Jack has nothing to worry about.”

In the world of pro sports, votes of confidence are often met with skeptical eye rolls and sighs.

But Zduriencik has earned props for overseeing the reshaping and rebuilding of the minor league and player development system left in shambles after the Bavasi regime. However, the improvement of the big-league product has been slow.

Since the 2009 season, the last time Seattle sported a winning record, the Mariners have failed to get over .500 in three consecutive campaigns. Zduriencik recognizes it’s been an agonizingly gradual process, including the playing of several rookies in key roles. A year ago, the Mariners had more than 15 players on their roster with fewer than three years of big-league experience.

“We are doing this the right way,” Zduriencik said.

RULE 5 MADNESS

With their 40-man roster full, the Seattle Mariners could not make a move to acquire a player in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft on Thursday morning. Although the first player taken in the draft by the Houston Astros – Red Sox minor league reliever Josh Fields – has ties to the Mariners.

Fields, who played in college at Georgia, was drafted in the first round by former Mariners GM Bavasi in 2008. Fields held out most of a year over contract demands and didn’t pitch. He went unsigned and Zduriencik was able to land him when he re-entered the draft.

But the year away from baseball affected his command and he never could quite put it together in the Mariners’ system. He was later dealt as part of a three-team trade that sent Erik Bedard to the Red Sox in July 2011.

In 42 combined appearances between Double A and Triple A, Fields appeared in 42 games and posted a 2.01 ERA. He struck out 78 hitters and walked 18 in 58 innings.

The Mariners did make a selection in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft, grabbing infielder Eric Farris from the Brewers’ minor-league system.

“He’s a nice little middle infielder,” Zduriencik said. “He’s got some action and can run a little bit. We thought it was a very low-risk acquisition. We’ll give him a chance and see what happens.”

Farris hit .286 with seven home runs and 31 RBI and stole 35 bases in 131 games for the Nashville Sounds.

Zduriencik, former scouting director for the Brewers, knows a little about Farris since he drafted him out of Loyola Marymount in the 2007 draft (fourth round) for Milwaukee.

Farris will be placed on the Rainiers’ roster and must remain there the entire season or else be returned to the Brewers.

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish

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