Mariners Weekly Update

Free agents can start signing contracts with new teams in the middle of next month, but the Mariners remain without a general manager. Ideally, the team would like to name its next GM in the coming weeks to prepare for what figures to be a busy offseason. And that's just one of several notable issues regarding the M's this week.

The Mariners are pursuing new hires on a couple of fronts. They continue to look for a new general manager, with as many as eight men expected to be interviewed.

Among the candidates are Florida vice president for player personnel Dan Jennings, Montreal general manager Omar Minaya, Boston assistant Mike Port, Detroit assistant Al Avila and internal candidates Benny Looper and Lee Pelekoudas.

Meanwhile, the Mariners are getting closer to filling the last remaining position on the staff - hitting coach. Former big-league outfielder Dwayne Murphy and two-time manager Hal McRae (Kansas City and Tampa Bay) have interviewed with manager Bob Melvin. And there is a chance that longtime big-league slugger Chili Davis, another one-time All-Star, will get an interview in the coming days.

Murphy has known Melvin for years, and both worked under manager Bob Brenly on the Arizona Diamondbacks. Most recently, Murphy was the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks, but he was relieved of that job and offered a minor league managerial position in the Arizona system after the 2003 season ended.

McRae, who played for 19 seasons in the big leagues, finished with a .290 average, 1,097 RBIs and 191 home runs.

Davis, a teammate of Melvin in San Francisco in the 1980s, has been a part-time coach with the Diamondbacks the last few seasons and was a finalist for the job of hitting coach last year when the Mariners ultimately chose Lamar Johnson.

Johnson and the Mariners parted company after one season. In addition to those three, Melvin could talk to as many as three other candidates for the job. The Mariners would like to have the new hitting coach in place by the end of the month.

"We still have some more interviews to go," Melvin said. "Nothing has been solidified yet." Other Notes:
If Seattle goes on to open the 2004 season in Japan, the scenario will be much different than it was earlier this year, when the Mariners and Oakland Athletics were scheduled to open the season with two games in Tokyo.

Back then, the M's and A's were going to be stars without rivals. That never happened when Major League Baseball canceled the trip because of the pending outbreak of the war in Iraq.

Before the cancellation, the Mariners and A's were going to be playing while teams in Japan's Central and Pacific leagues were going to still be in spring training.

Next year, that would not be the case. Japan's two professional leagues are going to take a two-week hiatus in August so that Japan can send its best All-Star team to Athens to take part in the Summer Olympic Games.

As a result, the leagues have a tentative schedule to start their seasons two weeks earlier, in mid-March. If Major League Baseball can get it worked out, the Mariners will likely open the season against either Oakland or Anaheim in the final week of March. The need to schedule around the regularly scheduled Central and Pacific league games may be one reason the deal hasn't been finalized.

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