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Mariners hire Hansen as new hitting coach

SEATTLE -- Dave Hansen, who closed out a 15-year Major League career with the Mariners as a pinch-hitting specialist in 2005, is returning now as the club's new hitting coach, general manager Jack Zduriencik announced Monday.

Hansen, 43, replaces Chris Chambliss, whose contract was not renewed when the season ended last month.

Hansen said he was runner-up to Chambliss for the position when Eric Wedge was hiring his original Mariners staff in 2011, so he became the Dodgers' hitting coach the past year and a half and is thrilled now to get the opportunity in Seattle.

"I'm really excited to be back," Hansen said in a conference call with reporters on Monday afternoon. "I loved it [in Seattle] as a player. Safeco Field is first class, as well as the organization. For me to come back is a blessing."

Hansen said the Mariners were the first of several teams to pursue him after he was dismissed by the Dodgers after this past season.

"Seattle was the first call, within hours," he said. "There were other teams involved as the process went on, but Jack and Eric were persistent and they had been keeping an eye on me since I first interviewed two years ago. They just wanted to make it happen and I was more than happy to do it. It's safe to say the Seattle Mariners were my No. 1 choice."

.Hansen is the first coaching change on Wedge's staff since his arrival in Seattle.

"I think Dave will be a good addition to our big league staff," Wedge said. "He's had success as both a coach and a player, and has a clear vision of how to help prepare our hitters to be successful."

Hansen was known as one of baseball's premier pinch hitters during his career, which concluded with the Mariners in 2004 and '05. He also played first and third base while batting .260 with 35 home runs and 222 RBIs over 1,230 games with four different clubs.

He played with the Dodgers from 1990-96 and 1999-2002 and also was with the Cubs in '97 and the Padres in 2003-04. Hansen set a Major League record with seven pinch-hit home runs in 2000 and also holds Dodgers records for most pinch hits in a season (18 in 1993) and a career (110).

Hansen hit .282 in 78 at-bats with the Mariners in 57 games in 2004, then retired after batting .173 in 75 at-bats in '05.

"I had the chance to talk to Dave several times, and have also talked to players and coaches he's worked with, and we feel he is a great fit for our club," Zduriencik said. "We look forward to having Dave rejoin the Seattle organization."

Hansen will be the 11th hitting coach employed by the Mariners in a 12-year span, including interim coaches.

Gerald Perry was the hitting coach for the final three seasons of Lou Piniella's tenure. But after that staff left in 2002, the club has gone through Lamar Johnson (2003), Paul Molitor ('04), Don Baylor ('05), Jeff Pentland (2006-08), Lee Elia ('08), Jose Castro ('08), Alan Cockrell (2009-10), Alonzo Powell ('10) and Chambliss (2011-12).

The Mariners aren't the only organization that has churned through hitting coaches, however. The Rangers just hired their fifth hitting coach in the past four years, dismissing Scott Coolbaugh and replacing him with Dave Magadan from the Red Sox even though Texas just led the Majors in scoring last season.

Just six years removed from his own playing days, Hansen is relatively new to the coaching profession. He spent four years as a Minor League instructor with the D-backs before joining the Dodgers' Major League staff. But he understands the turnover and the Mariners' history.

"I think the job is tough just because when a team is not hitting or things aren't clicking, that's who they look to is the hitting coach," he said. "It's usually [the coach] that has to move on, not the players. I know that first hand."

The Mariners are continuing to look at ways to upgrade an offense that saw some improvement last year, but still finished last in the American League in runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Seattle has finished last in the AL in scoring and batting average for four straight years. Part of that has to do with playing in one of the toughest hitting parks in baseball and the club has already announced it will move in the Safeco Field fences next season.

On the road, the Mariners ranked fifth in the AL in scoring and ninth in batting average last year and they hope to add more pieces this offseason to a young nucleus that includes Kyle Seager, Michael Saunders, Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, John Jaso, Justin Smoak, Casper Wells and Mike Carp.

"I'm super excited to get in front of this young group of talent the Mariners have, young kids that are hungry and talented and have another year under their belt," Hansen said. "I think they're ready to take their game to the next level and I'm excited to be part of that."

Hansen said a shorter left-field alley should help the club's right-handed power hitters, but he's not worried about Safeco Field.

"For me, the elements of the park's dimensions doesn't change much," he said. "We still have to have an approach at the plate. We still have to have an idea. If we do those things correctly, with their natural ability the ball should jump and carry out a little more frequently with the new dimensions."

His basic approach?

"In a nutshell, we need to create pressure on the defense," he said. "Obviously our No. 1 goal is to touch home base, period, and take the necessary steps to do that. And that takes one-through-nine with the same mentality of how to get on base, drive runs in and do the little things to create runs. Within that, every guy is an individual and they're going to develop their own approach to execute the right plan."

The Mariners have already announced that the rest of Wedge's staff is returning for a third straight season in 2013, with Carl Willis as pitching coach, Robby Thompson as bench coach and infield coach, Mike Brumley as first-base coach and outfield and baserunning coach, Jeff Datz as third-base coach and catching coach, Jaime Navarro as bullpen coach and Jason Phillips as bullpen catcher.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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