Mariners to retain Zduriencik as GM

Jack Zduriencik, weathering a disappointing season and the controversial acquisition of a minor leaguer who had faced felony charges, will return as Mariners’ general manager in 2011.

“We’re not thinking about changing the general manager at all,” Mariners president Chuck Armstrong told FOXSports.com on Monday night.

Armstrong said that Zduriencik works under an “evergreen” contract that rolls over each season. The deal includes a termination provision that guarantees Zduriencik a severance payment unless he is fired for cause.

The Mariners, predicted by some to contend for the AL West title after a series of well-received moves by Zduriencik, entered Monday with a 59-96 record, the worst in the American League.

Zduriencik’s future did not appear in question, however, until reports surfaced about pitcher Josh Lueke, one of four players the Mariners acquired from the Rangers on July 9 for pitchers Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe.

Lueke, 25, faced felony charges in rape and sodomy case in which he later pleaded no contest to a lesser charge. Zduriencik, acting upon information he received from Rangers GM Jon Daniels, said he initially believed that Lueke had been exonerated. The Seattle Times quoted Armstrong as saying that Zduriencik told him the matter was “no big deal.”

However, a report by the Times revealed that Zduriencik had more information on Lueke than he originally disclosed, and that the Rangers offered to take back Lueke and alter the deal.

Not long after the report was published, the Mariners fired Zduriencik’s good friend, pro scouting director Carmen Fusco, though they did not give an exact reason for his dismissal.

The team also experienced other forms of upheaval this season, from the firing of hitting coach Alan Cockrell on May 9 to the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. on June 3 to the firing of manager Don Wakamatsu on Aug. 10.

The Mariners’ offense, in particular, has been a huge disappointment. The team is on pace to score the fewest runs of any AL team since the inception of the DH in 1973.

Zduriencik is searching for a permanent manager. Padres bench coach Ted Simmons and White Sox bench coach Joey Cora are expected to be among the leading candidates for the job.

"What I’ve said all along is that we are building this for the long haul, while attempting to stay as competitive as we can," said Zduriencik, who took over as Mariners GM in October 2008.

"We would all like to win now and are disappointed in how this season has gone, but you can never lose sight of the big picture. Our minor-league system had six of seven clubs in the playoffs, and two league champions. We’ve had two good drafts, we got back some very good pieces in trades."

Zduriencik also mentioned the impact of injuries to several important players.

"When you consider we lost (Cliff) Lee in the first month, (Milton) Bradley (to the restricted list and then knee surgery), (Mark) Lowe to back surgery, (Shawn) Kelley to Tommy John surgery, Jack Wilson, plus (Erik) Bedard never came back at all, and so many players had sub-par years, it simply never came together.

"It was a tough year where we never got anything going. We needed a lot of things to go right, and it just didn’t happen."