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Melvin not very busy as M's start spring training

Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2003

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For once, Bob Melvin went to work at the ballpark and found little to do.

On his first day in uniform as manager of the Seattle Mariners on Monday, the new boss chatted with players, supervised stretching exercises and leaned against a fence to watch pitchers throw.

''This is the least amount of work I've ever done on a baseball field. I felt like I was stealing money until I realized I had to come over and talk to all of you guys,'' Melvin jokingly told reporters.

It was a measurable change for the 41-year-old Melvin. He spent the past four seasons planning and coordinating spring training workouts as a bench coach, including the last two years with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

''It was easy compared to what I'm used to doing,'' Melvin said.

The Mariners were the first team to open spring training, starting workouts for catchers and pitchers 105 days after the end of last season's World Series. Position players report this weekend.

The early start should give the Mariners time to prepare for a season-opening series in Tokyo against the Oakland Athletics, but other clubs aren't far behind.

The New York Yankees' pitchers and catchers report Tuesday and start workouts Thursday. Most teams report by Thursday, with the World Series champion Anaheim Angels checking in Friday and beginning workouts Saturday.

The Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins will be the last teams to open camp, reporting Sunday and beginning workouts Feb. 17.

By then, Melvin should be going full speed for the Mariners. He expects to be an active manager, starting with plans to throw batting practice Tuesday.

''I've been ready to go for two months,'' he said.

While his job description has changed, the duration of Melvin's commute is no different. It's a 30-minute drive from his year-round home in Cave Creek, Ariz., but now he travels to suburban Phoenix rather than downtown.

''It helps with the transition,'' Melvin said. ''I'm getting into a routine for spring training, but it's a little earlier than going to the night games at Bank One Ballpark.''

Melvin knows he's stepping into ''a unique situation'' where he'll be expected to win right way. He compared it to joining the Diamondbacks two years ago when his good friend, Bob Brenly, was hired as manager and delivered a World Series title.

''The expectation for this team is that the time is now,'' he said. ''It's been that way for the last three or four years.''

After Mariners players strolled from the clubhouse, Melvin gathered them in the outfield for remarks. He told them Seattle's success over the past decade was built on an established system, and he doesn't plan to change much.

''My personality isn't that it's my way or the highway, or on Day One having a State of the Union speech,'' Melvin told reporters. ''I'm going to ease into it. I want to get to know the guys on a one-to-one basis.''

The message went over well, according to veteran designated hitter Edgar Martinez.

''He seems like a great guy,'' said Martinez, who is one year younger than Melvin. ''He's going to be a perfect fit for this team because we have a veteran team. He's very excited about the team.''



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