Updated Jul 3, 2012 - 5:23 pm
Jack Zduriencik on accountability
Jack Zduriencik spent a good amount time during in the Mariners' dugout before Monday's 6-3 win over the Orioles, both watching batting practice and answering reporters' questions. After what I think would be safe to call a turbulent weekend for the Mariners, it was good to have the opportunity to talk to him. The first question on my mind was what he sees in where this team is right now.
"You could look at the win/loss record and that would be disappointing, but then you can look at some of the accomplishments of the first half, some of the things that have stood out. ...You can start right there," he answered.
Zduriencik spoke of the emergence of Tom Wilhelmsen and the success of Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge as highlights from the bullpen. He was also pleased with what he saw in the development of John Jaso and Kyle Seager. He did not appear to be surprised by the struggles of the team that we have seen lately.
"I thought we would see this team play in a series of spurts," he said. "I thought we would see inconsistencies just because of the age. I think that is what we have seen."
The player that perhaps most resembles that remark is the youngest player, Jesus Montero. Despite the ups and downs, Zduriencik is encouraged by what he has seen so far.
"Montero, there have been some spurts again with this kid," he said. "I think he has exceeded what we thought he could do defensively, but there have been spurts of him looking like a really good hitter. Again there have been times when he has looked like a rookie, but there have also been times when you look at him where you say, 'For the next five years I am glad he is on our side.' It looks like he has a chance to become a big-time hitter."
Zduriencik has not overlooked the struggles of Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley.
"It has been a challenge for them," he acknowledged. "There are guys that need to figure it out. We have seen good stretches for Ackley. Smoak needs to develop consistency. I think he will. We all think he has the ability to hit. In some cases it takes longer for some guys."
They will have time. While the win/loss record is not what he would like to see, he has stuck to his original plan and he shows no signs of being ready to alter it drastically.
"This year was the year we needed to see these guys perform at this level to give us a gauge of what we have going forward," he said.
This doesn't mean we couldn't see moves. He stands behind Eric Wedge – with whom he meets daily – in how he handled Saturday's team meeting.
"We talk about many of these things," he said. "There is a sense of urgency. For these players there should be a sense of urgency every day. All of us are watching what is happening here. We are not immune to everything. We know the ups and downs but we also understand how guys have to approach this thing professionally, and despite the fact that you may be young or you may be old, you have got to perform."
"Nobody is on scholarship," he continued. "I don't care who you are; every guy has got to perform. Every guy here has a responsibility to be a major league player and be the best you can be. No matter who you are looking at or what your age is there is patience involved, but there is also a degree of urgency. We are looking for guys to perform, for guys to take steps forward."
And if they don't? We hear the term "accountability" tossed around quite a bit with this team. I asked Zduriencik what his definition of accountability is and how players are held accountable.
"It can be a player could sit on the bench, be dropped in the lineup." he answered. "It could be a trip to back to Tacoma or it could be a player that very well will not be here as we move forward. Eric has done a very nice job of holding these players accountable. I think he has confronted issues when he has had them. I think he has confronted the team when he has been unhappy."
"In this whole process, confrontation is not always the answer, however," he continued. "It gets headlines, it's nice copy, but what else goes on is the mentoring, the arm around the shoulder behind closed doors, the sit downs and discussions and film sessions. There is so much more that goes into that, that understanding of where each and every player is at. In a nutshell, I think you would be surprised at how compassionate and patient Eric and his coaching staff have been and I think that is a great compliment. I think he has given them both ends of the spectrum."
It is a process bringing up a young club, according to Zduriencik.
"What you want and what we are see are guys learning what it takes at this level," he said. "A lot of these kids still have their eyes open and are looking at this thing saying, 'OK, I understand more than I did two months ago. I understand more than I did last year when I was called up in August.'
"They will understand more this August and more as we go into the season. It's about becoming a major league player, becoming a professional day in and day out and what that requires, and this is the first time a lot of them have gone through that."
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