Sweet Lou gets sweet spot in Hall of Fame

Staff writerJanuary 24, 2014 

Former Mariners manager Lou Piniella, who guided the team through its most successful seasons, will be the eighth inductee to the M’s Hall of Fame.

LENNY IGNELZI/AP FILE, 2002

The joke quickly made the rounds Thursday after the Seattle Mariners announced plans to induct former manager Lou Piniella into their Hall of Fame.

Will Sweet Lou mark the occasion by throwing a ceremonial first base? Stay tuned.

The move honors a manager who guided the Mariners to seven winning seasons in a 10-year span from 1993-2002, including 116 victories in 2001. All four of the club’s postseason appearances came under Piniella.

“He gave me an opportunity here in Seattle,” said former catcher Dan Wilson, a 2012 inductee. “Lou was very instrumental in pushing me to become the player I became.”

The ceremony to induct Piniella will take place before the Aug. 9 game against the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field. He will be the Hall’s eighth inductee.

Already enshrined: Alvin Davis (in 1997), Dave Niehaus (2000), Jay Buhner (2004), Edgar Martinez (2007), Randy Johnson (2012), Wilson and Ken Griffey Jr. (2013).

“Lou Piniella was bigger than life,” Buhner said. “There was no question what the goal was every day when the players walked into the clubhouse — win tonight’s game. Anything less was not acceptable.”

Piniella, 70, resides in Tampa, Fla., with his wife, Anita. He currently works as a color commentator on New York Yankees telecasts.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Look for the Mariners to continue to tweak their roster in coming days, but general manager Jack Zduriencik suggested it’s unlikely any splashy acquisitions will be forthcoming.

“We have some discussions going on with some agents as well as some other ballclubs,” he said. “Where it ends up, I don’t know. But I don’t suspect we’re going to make a major move.

“But hopefully we’ll do a couple of things, some tweaks, that will help the club.”

ON HIRING DONNELLY

The decision to replace Daren Brown with Rich Donnelly as the manager at Triple-A Tacoma?

“I just felt like it was time ... ” said Chris Gwynn, the Mariners’ director of player development. “It’s never fun making moves like that, but sometimes you just have to do what you feel is best for the Mariners’ organization.”

Brown spent most of the past seven seasons as the Rainiers’ manager. He was reassigned within the organization to serve as roving bunting and base-running coordinator.

Donnelly arrives after spending the past three years in the New York Mets’ organization as the manager at Single-A Brooklyn. His 43-year résumé in pro ball includes 27 seasons as a big league coach.

“His résumé speaks for itself,” Gwynn said. “He’s been around the game for a long time. His comfort level with Lloyd (McClendon, the Mariners’ manager) is really good.

“I’m excited about him taking over in Tacoma. Cory Snyder will be on his staff as well, Jaime Navarro as well. All guys who know what it takes to be a big leaguer. They should have a pretty good team.”

INJURY UPDATES

Right-hander Stephen Pryor is on pace to make a full return by late May after missing almost all of last season because of an injury to his right shoulder — specifically a tear in his right latissimus dorsi muscle.

“He’s working at home and beginning a throwing program,” trainer Rob Nodine said. “We’re optimistic about his progression.”

In other health news:

 • First baseman Jesus Montero is working out after suffering an injured right hand in winter ball that required stitches.

 • Left-hander Danny Hultzen is close to starting a throwing program in his recovery from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. He is expected to miss the entire 2014 season.

 • Two newcomers, outfielders/first basemen Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, show no problems in their recovery from knee surgeries.

 • Third baseman DJ Peterson, the club’s first-round pick in 2013, is working out in Arizona after suffering a broken jaw in August when hit by a pitch.

“He looks good,” Gwynn said.

ONE SIGNING CONFIRMED

The Mariners confirmed a minor league contract to retain outfielder Endy Chavez that includes an invitation to big league camp. Confirmation of a similar deal with left-handed reliever Joe Beimel could come as soon as Friday.

Chavez, who turns 36 next month, would be returning to the organization for the third time. He became a free agent after batting .267 last season for the Mariners with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 97 games.

He previously played for the Mariners in 2009 and has a .269 average and a .307 on-base percentage in 1,071 career games with six clubs.

Beimel, 36, is an 11-year veteran who compiled a 4.36 earned-run average in 30 games last season at Triple-A Gwinnett in the Atlanta organization while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his elbow.

He was 24-32 with a 4.21 ERA in 567 games from 2001-11 with six big league clubs.

The two signings increase the Mariners’ spring roster to 63 players, including 23 nonroster invitees.

bob.dutton@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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