Updated Jan 23, 2013 - 3:06 pm
In Ibanez, Wedge sees one of baseball's best leaders
The first name manager Eric Wedge mentioned when asked about the Mariners' offseason additions wasn't Mike Morse, the outfielder who hit 49 home runs over the last two seasons. It wasn't Kendrys Morales, who could be Seattle's everyday designated hitter in 2013.
It was 40-year-old Raul Ibanez.
"We talked about it all season long, we needed to have that influence there with regards to veteran leadership and presence in the clubhouse. I feel like that we've done a great job of adding to that," Wedge told "Bob and Groz" on Tuesday.
The Mariners expect 40-year-old Raul Ibanez to provide a veteran presence the team lacked last season. (AP)
Ibanez signed a one-year deal to return to Seattle for his third stint with the Mariners. He's coming off a season in which he hit 19 home runs and posted an .810 OPS in 130 regular-season games with the Yankees.
But while his addition – as well as that of Morales, Morse and Jason Bay – should help an offense that ranked last in the American League last season in runs scored and batting average, Wedge seems equally excited about what Ibanez and the others will bring to the clubhouse.
"We've got some guys that can hit in the middle of the lineup. We've got some guys that are going to be able to be mentors, if you will," Wedge said. "It's going to be a big deal."
The Mariners had veterans on last year's team – Ichiro, Miguel Olivo and Chone Figgins, to name a few. But Wedge has made it fairly clear the last few days that the team's older players didn't do enough to take some of the pressure off the youngsters and help them through the inevitable growing pains.
"When you have a bunch of young kids out there playing – you're starting six, seven, eight 25-year-olds a night – they're the ones that have to get beat up by you guys [the media], and that's just the way it works," Wedge said. "If you have got veterans in the lineup then they can take the bulk of it. The veterans we had last year, they weren't guys for us. That's why we've moved on from them. So we feel like the veterans we have this year are going to help be a bigger part of that."
Wedge made it clear that Ibanez isn't merely here to be an extra coach. The Mariners hope to get some offense from Ibanez in a part-time role, with his playing time likely coming at DH or a corner outfield spot.
Wedge also made it clear how much he values the leadership Ibanez brings.
"I can make an argument that Raul Ibanez is the No. 1 guy for that in the game of baseball right now – that's how good this guy is, that's how special he is, that's how much he gets it," Wedge said. "You play 17 or 18 years like he has and you impact players and organizations and teams like he has, I couldn't be more thrilled to have him in there.
"He's here to play, first and foremost, but part of his package is just what he's about as a human being and as a baseball player and the way he feels about this game and the way he feels about this city."
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