Wedge ready to take over Mariners’ ship

Eric Wedge hasn’t managed in the big leagues for more than a

year, so the new Mariners skipper arrived at the team’s spring

training facility Sunday ready to go.

First on the docket: getting to know the 63 players in camp. The

first workout of spring training for Seattle’s pitchers and

catchers is Monday.

”The majority I’ve got to get around to,” Wedge said.

”That’ll just be a process. It’s not going to happen in one day.

It’ll be in the clubhouse, it’ll be outside the clubhouse, it’ll be

on the field, maybe at the parking lot or wherever.”

The 43-year-old Wedge was 561-573 as a manager with the

Cleveland Indians, and is hoping to lead a renaissance in Seattle.

He wants to take the introductions beyond just a hello handshake,

spending some time getting to know his players.

He’ll also set his agenda and share his plans with the team when

everyone arrives Saturday.

”When I talk to them that first day, we won’t leave much to the

imagination,” Wedge said. ”A lot of the things I’m going to say

to them, you’ve heard already.

”It’s about respecting the game, being a good teammate, what we

expect and our level of expectations. What I look for from day to

day, what I’m looking for this spring, what we’re going to look to

accomplish and how we’re going to do it.”

In the end, winning comes first, Wedge said. The Mariners

finished with the AL’s worst record last season, 61-101, and

haven’t been to the postseason since 2001.

”I’ve got to have the guts and we’ve got to have the strength

to sometimes take one step back to take two steps forward,” Wedge

said. ”I don’t put a timetable on that. … Sometimes that

timetable may not be three months or six months or a year, it may

be less than that.”

Wedge also said that reliever Brandon League, who had six saves

in 2010, is leading the closer competition, with David Aardsma not

expected to be ready until after the regular season starts. He had

surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip last month.

”He’s the first guy that comes to mind,” Wedge said. ”But I

think we’ve got some other guys here at camp that are going to be

fighting for it, too. I know that we do. Nobody’s set in stone in

that spot right now.”

That goes for the rest of the bullpen, too.

”We’ve got to do a lot of observing here early on. There’s not

going to be a whole lot of coaching here early on,” he said. ”We

need to watch them and observe and get to know them and get a feel

for them and let them do the same for us.”

The starting rotation is a little more settled with AL Cy Young

winner Felix Hernandez providing an anchor. But the rest of the

guys will have to settle into their spots, including Jason Vargas

and Doug Fister, who had 15 wins in 59 starts but decent earned-run

averages.

”That’s something that obviously gives them a great leg up in

the rotation,” Wedge said. ”But we’re still going to have plenty

of competition for that starting rotation.”

Erik Bedard is another starter Wedge will have an eye on, after

he missed last season with shoulder discomfort. He threw in the

bullpen recently and got good marks from pitching coach Carl

Willis.

”Bedard’s more of an individual situation,” Wedge said. ”He’s

just had a lot of trouble with injuries. He looks great. I look

into his eyes, I see good eyes. He looks physically fit.”

And just like every other team in spring training, there will be

an eye on the youngsters.

”If we feel like they’re in position to where they belong on

our team breaking camp, I think you have to take into consideration

the intangibles above that,” Wedge said. ”In other words, they

come out here and they have a tough first week and you guys do what

you’ve got to do and start writing about it, are they going to be

able to handle that?

”We have to make sure that we know that they can handle that

from the intangibles and the toughness and the understanding of

what comes along at that level.”