Sports

Mariners seem headed down the right path — hopefully

The Seattle Mariners will definitely have a new look when the 2009 Major League Baseball season begins. And most would agree, that isn’t going to be a bad thing.

The Mariners put together one of the worst seasons in the history of organized baseball in 2008. The Seattle nine became the first team to lose 100 games, while spending $100 million on payroll.

It was an epic disaster, to say the least.

It was a season that cost John McLaren his job as the team’s manager and general manager Bill Bavasi was also axed midseason. Interim manager Jim Riggleman was not retained following the season and has since taken a job with the Washington Nationals.

But things seem to be headed down the right path, hopefully.

The Mariners recently hired a new general manager, Jack Zduriencik. The lifetime baseball man has built his reputation as a scouting wizard. This will be the 57-year-old’s first general manger job after 25 years reporting to somebody else. He spent the past 10 seasons directing the Milwaukee Brewers’ scouting department.

Since he arrived in Milwaukee in 1999, Zduriencik helped draft Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks as well as 2007 NL Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart, Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra — the young foundation of the Brewers’ playoff team this season.

That foundation is something the Mariners have been sorely lacking during their recent seven-year absence from the postseason.

All you have to do is look at the opening-day lineup for the Mariners this season to see the job Zduriencik has ahead of him. Seattle didn’t have a single player in its starting lineup or five-man pitching rotation that the team selected in the Major League Baseball Draft, which is pretty amazing.

Kenji Johjima and Ichiro were signed from Japan, Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Raul Ibanez, Brad Wilkerson, Carlos Silva, Jerrod Washburn and Miguel Batista were all free-agent signings and Jose Vidro and Erik Bedard were acquired in trades. Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt and Felix Hernandez were all signed by international scouts.

So don’t expect an instant turnaround by the Mariners when they open the 2009 season. It’s going to take time for Zduriencik to stock the minor and major league system in Seattle, as well as get rid of the terrible contracts that Bavasi doled out during his reign.

But I think Zduriencik is the right type of guy for the job — a proven talent evaluator.

• On Wednesday, the new Oklahoma City Thunder opened their first season since stealing the SuperSonics from Seattle. The Thunder were promptly beaten up by the Milwaukee Bucks, 98-87, in front of NBA commissioner David Stern and a sellout crowd of 19,186.

Serves Clay Bennett right. I hope they finish 0-82.

• It looks like the Federal Way Eagles football team will be playing without senior middle linebacker/offensive lineman Andru Pulu the remainder of the season.

The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder, who has already given a verbal commitment to the University of Washington, suffered a knee injury during the Eagles’ loss to Kentwood two weeks ago that was later diagnosed as an MCL tear.

Last season, Pulu racked up 62 tackles, which was second on the team behind Washington State-commit Andre Barrington, despite missing a game with an injury. He also had two tackles for losses and two fumble recoveries. As a sophomore, Pulu had 74 total tackles — including seven for losses, one sack and two fumble recoveries.

WashingtonPreps.com listed Pulu as the 26th-ranked senior recruit from Washington state and gave him two out of five stars. He was a first-team, All-SPSL North Division linebacker both his sophomore and junior seasons. Pulu was listed on every major preseason all-state team in Washington.

Pulu will most likely move onto the defensive line when he gets to the University of Washington.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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