Carl Willis, Chris Chambliss, and Robbie Thompson join Eric Wedge’s coaching staff

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Three weeks after hiring Eric Wedge as their new manager the Mariners announced his coaching staff:

Hitting coach: Chris Chambliss
Pitching coach: Carl Willis
Bench coach: Robbie Thompson
First base coach: Mike Brumley
Third base coach: Jeff Datz
Bullpen coach: Jaime Navarro

Willis served as interim pitching coach after the Mariners cleaned house at midseason and previously held the same job under Wedge in Cleveland, so keeping him on board was a no-brainer.

Chambliss beat out Milt Thompson and Leon Durham for the hitting coach gig. Daren Brown lost out to Wedge after serving as interim manager down the stretch, but is expected to remain in the organization as the skipper at Triple-A.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?