Mariners settle on Brendan Ryan at shortstop and Jack Wilson at second base

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When the Mariners acquired Brendan Ryan from the Cardinals in mid-December they initially hinted that he’d be playing mostly second base, with Jack Wilson remaining at shortstop, but after evaluating them for the past few weeks manager Eric Wedge has decided to flip-flop the two infielders.

Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reports that Ryan will play shortstop with Wilson at second base, although the infield picture figures to change again once top prospect Dustin Ackley is deemed ready for a call-up.

Ryan has graded out as one of the elite defensive shortstops in baseball, with Ultimate Zone Rating showing him as 11.4 runs above average per 150 games there. Wilson has a similarly strong defensive reputation, but at age 33 his range has slipped a bit and he’s unlikely to be better than Ryan. Of course, whether Wilson will thrive at second base after never playing an inning anywhere other than shortstop for his entire 10-year career is another question.

Either way, the Mariners figure to have one of the best-fielding and worst-hitting double-play duos in baseball.

Yankees to hire Josh Bard as their new bench coach

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Aaron Boone has no experience as a coach or a manager at any level. As such, some have speculated that he’d hire a more seasoned hand as his bench coach as he begins his first season as Yankees manager. Someone like, say, Eric Wedge, who was a candidate for the job Boone got and who once managed Boone in Cleveland.

Nope. According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, he’s going with Josh Bard.

Bard, 39, was a teammate of Boone’s with the Indians in 2005. He’s not without coaching experience, having spent the last two seasons as the Dodgers’ bullpen coach, but he’s not that Gene Lamont/Don Zimmer-type we often see in the bench coach role.

Which is fine because different managers want different things from their bench coach. Some are strategy guys, helping with in-game decision making. Others are relationship guys who help managers understand all of the dynamics of the clubhouse while they’re worrying more about lineups and stuff. Others are trust guys, who can serve as the manager’s sounding board, among other things. Some are combinations of all of these things. As Feinsand notes in his story, Boone said at his introductory press conference that he’s looking for this:

“I want smart sitting next to me. I want confidence sitting next to me. I want a guy who can walk out into that room and as I talk about relationships I expect to have with my players, I expect that even to be more so with my coaching staff. Whether that is a guy with all kinds of experience or little experience. I am not concerned about that.”