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Ex-Mariners manager Wakamatsu joins Jays coaching staff

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The Canadian Press
11/8/2010 7:41:41 PM
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TORONTO -- Top catching prospect J.P. Arencibia can expect to see a whole lot of Don Wakamatsu next season, provided the Toronto Blue Jays' new bench coach isn't lured away by the New York Mets first.

Wakamatsu is one of three new additions named to manager John Farrell's staff Monday, joining Torey Lovullo and Pat Hentgen along with returnees Dwayne Murphy, Brian Butterfield and Bruce Walton.

The hirings settled the club's coaching situation, but only for the moment, as the former Seattle Mariners skip is scheduled to interview for the Mets' managerial opening this week.

Should New York end up hiring Wakamatsu, Farrell plans to have the long-time catcher guide Arencibia's development behind the plate, and organize the nitty-gritty of spring camp would go up in flames.

"That possibility exists, he's a talented guy," Farrell conceded on a conference call before adding that if Wakamatsu is given an opportunity, "we would cheer him on, but know we have a very good bench coach and a very good person in this role."

Wakamatsu, fired by Seattle in August, also interviewed for the Blue Jays opening that went to Farrell but impressed GM Alex Anthopoulos enough that he became a candidate for the bench coach's job.

Farrell sought three qualities in his coaches -- they be good communicators and teachers; have a strong knowledge base in their area of expertise; and be available to players all day during the season -- and Wakamatsu checked in on all three.

The Blue Jays want him to be their catching instructor and with 12 years as pro behind the plate, Wakamatsu would be an ideal fit to work with Arencibia, who will be given some sort of opportunity to play this season.

"In J.P.'s case, our goal is to make him an every day catcher behind the plate leading a pitching staff, and there's further work to be done," said Farrell. "I felt like Don is the right guy for the situation."

Farrell feels he can say that all around his coaching staff, too.

Lovullo, who managed Boston's triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket last year, will serve as first base coach, and, as Farrell's close friend, act as a person for the manager to "confide in, vent to just to find a way to deal with the daily frustrations that might emerge."

Hentgen, who had been club ambassador and special assistant to the president and CEO for the Blue Jays, takes over as bullpen coach, while Murphy returns for a third season as hitting coach.

The returns of Butterfield as third base coach and Walton as pitching coach were announced the day of Farrell's hiring. It's a talented group loaded with potential future managers, and it will need to mould together to succeed.

"I think it's critical that we build a cohesive unit, which I'm confident will take place," said Farrell. "One of the most detrimental things that can pull a team apart is if your coaching staff is splintered and players don't look upon them as a group that not only co-exists but works well together, communicates well together.

"We are providing the lead for them to follow."

Bringing back Murphy, 55, was a popular move with the team's players, many of whom "pounded the table for him." Under his guidance the Blue Jays hit a club record 257 home runs last year but there were some questions whether his approach would mesh with Farrell, who envisions the team doing more to create offence.

That won't be a problem.

"Dwayne is very much in-step with our conversations and I'm excited about him being here," said Farrell. "What really validated Dwayne and everything he'd discussed is the feedback I've gotten from position players. ... It was great to hear that players believe in him."

Don Wakamatsu (Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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