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McClendon remains close with Tigers

SEATTLE -- Lloyd McClendon obviously thought about what it would be like to manage the Tigers at some point last fall. When Jim Leyland retired, McClendon was the logical in-house candidate and arguably the favorite in the managerial field until Brad Ausmus interviewed and left an impression.

At no point while serving as the Tigers' hitting coach, however, did McClendon think about the task he faces now: How would he try to get Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez out?

He's had to think about it a lot this week with the Tigers coming to Safeco Field and McClendon facing the franchise he served for eight years as a coach on former manager Jim Leyland's staff.

"You have ideas," McClendon said. "You have things you think you can exploit to help us be successful. But the fact is, once the game starts and the players are between the lines, it's up to the players. They have to execute. There's only so much that I can do or my staff can do. It's up to the players to execute the game plan."

McClendon's transition from Tigers managerial candidate to Mariners managerial choice happened so quickly, there was barely enough time for him to ponder the situation. On the day the Tigers introduced Ausmus as their choice to succeed Leyland, McClendon was in the midst of a second interview with Seattle.

"Obviously we had great years there," McClendon said, "And I was part of a staff that helped turn that organization around. We're proud of that. I'm proud to have opportunity to work with Jim and [Gene Lamont] over there. I thought that was outstanding, the winning and then the relationships that we built. I'm certainly extremely proud and happy about that."

The greetings from Tigers players to him before the game evidenced some of those relationships. Miguel Cabrera, who went from a great hitter to an elite one and won three straight batting titles and back-to-back AL MVP awards with McClendon as his hitting coach, made a point to visit with McClendon during Mariners batting practice, as did others.

"Obviously I have a lot of friends over there, a lot of people that I consider family," McClendon said.

Two coaches on McClendon's staff in Seattle also worked in Detroit. Mike Rojas was the Tigers' bullpen coach under Leyland from 2011 through last season. Andy Van Slyke was Detroit's first base coach from 2006 through 2009. Lamont and pitching coach Jeff Jones were the lone holdovers from Leyland's staff to Ausmus' group.

Ausmus and McClendon, meanwhile, do not know each other well. Their playing career barely overlapped, but McClendon managed against then-catcher Ausmus in the National League when McClendon managed the Pirates from 2001 to 2005.

"I went outside a little early to say hi to him," Victor Martinez said. "I really enjoyed working with him the last three years. He's a great man and I knew that he was going to get an opportunity to manage somewhere."

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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