Mariners cutting ties with Stottlemyre, Elia

SEATTLE — Longtime major league coaches Mel Stottlemyre and Lee Elia will not return to the remodeling Seattle Mariners in 2009, leaving an almost entirely new staff for first-time manager Don Wakamatsu.

The 67-year-old Stottlemyre spent one season as pitching coach with his hometown team. A five-time All-Star during his big league career, he was a World Series winner as pitching coach with the New York Yankees and Mets. But he had little tangible effect on Seattle's injured and mostly ineffective staff this season while the Mariners lost 101 games.

Stottlemyre's one-year contract expired on Oct. 31. He, along with Elia, has been told he will not be asked back, according to a person familiar with the decisions who spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because Wakamatsu has yet to announce his staff.

Elia, the 71-year-old former manager of the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies, was hired before this season as a special adviser to manager John McLaren, fired by the Mariners in June. Elia was with the team periodically throughout the season.

The Seattle Times first reported the departures of Stottlemyre and Elia on Monday.

A call left at Stottlemyre's home in suburban Sammamish on Tuesday night was not immediately returned.

Last week, new Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said it was possible one or two coaches would return. But the Times reported Tuesday that Wakamatsu has told bullpen coach Norm Charlton he will not be back, either.

Hitting coach Jeff Pentland was fired during the season and replaced by Jose Castro. Former third base coach Sam Perlozzo recently accepted the same job with the World Series champion Phillies.

Jim Riggleman, who finished last season as Seattle's manager after taking over in June, is the new bench coach for the Washington Nationals. And first base coach Eddie Rodriguez has agreed to join the Kansas City Royals.

They leave behind a team that finished last in the AL West three times in the past four years and is in the midst of a complete makeover from the GM on down — not the ideal place for Stottlemyre and Elia, who have a combined 51 years of coaching and managing experience in professional baseball.

Stottlemyre left the Yankees in 2005 after 10 seasons and four World Series titles as New York's pitching coach. He said he was tired of criticism from owner George Steinbrenner. Raised in rural Washington state, he returned to his home in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and interviewed that fall to become manager Mike Hargrove's pitching coach in Seattle. Hargrove chose relatively inexperienced Rafael Chaves instead.

Stottlemyre dabbled in spring training and instructional league work with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006. He golfed, fished — and successfully repelled multiple myeloma by monitoring his blood-cell count and taking a cycle of pills. His doctor unexpectedly cleared him to return to full-time work in the summer of 2007. A few months later he accepted McLaren's offer to lead a promising pitching staff.

But then new ace Erik Bedard got hurt and was a huge disappointment. Established veterans Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn also flopped. Young star Felix Hernandez was inconsistent, and McLaren got fired in June. By late summer Seattle was so desperate for even passable starting pitching it converted top relievers Ryan Rowland-Smith and Brandon Morrow into starters en route to missing the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.

Stottlemyre's next move might be back to fishing and golfing. When he returned to baseball 13 months ago, Stottlemyre said the Mariners' job was the only one that could have gotten him back in a dugout.

"I certainly hope it lasts for more than one year," Stottlemyre said then. "Whatever happens, at my age and certainly with my health issue, I'm excited for the opportunity."

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