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Wedge hopes to keep building young talent

SEATTLE -- With Mariners management having told general manager Jack Zduriencik he will be back for 2014, the question now is whether Eric Wedge and his staff will be retained next season.

And that is a question of which Wedge is well aware as he heads into the final days of a three-year contract with word only that he is to meet with management after the season ends.

"It's tough, I feel like I'm hanging out there; that's the reality of it," Wedge said Wednesday. "But I'm coming here and doing my job. You know how passionate I am about this team, and these players in particular, and this organization. The unfortunate part about how it's being handled is the effect it has on the players. That's why we're all here, is for the players.

"I'm a strong man, and I'm going to be fine either way," Wedge said. "But I'd like to see this thing through. We've done a lot of developing with a lot of young players over three years. I'd like to be here to lead them and turn the corner."

The Mariners have taken a step back in terms of win-loss record in Wedge's third season at the helm. After inheriting a team that went 61-101 in 2010, Wedge led the Mariners to finish 67-95 in his first season and 75-87 last year. They were 69-89 now with four games remaining.

Wedge recognizes it is a bottom-line business -- and he had higher expectations for this year as well -- but feels there are other circumstances at play. The club sustained several critical injuries in the opening weeks and did not get the anticipated contribution from right fielder Michael Morse as well as the critical up-the-middle core of center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, shortstop Brendan Ryan, second baseman Dustin Ackley and catcher Jesus Montero.

Additionally, the back end of the starting rotation did not produce, and the bullpen wore down considerably in the second half, all of which led to a considerable youth movement that saw a pitching staff that leaned heavily on first-year players and the arrival of numerous rookies, including four -- shortstop Brad Miller, second baseman Nick Franklin, catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Abraham Almonte -- who have been starting on a regular basis in the final months.

Wedge understands the youth movement and does not see change at the top benefitting that rebuilding process.

"Hey, I've done this before," Wedge said of his experience taking a young Cleveland franchise to the American League Championship Series. "I know how to do it. The worst thing they could do is blow it up and start over. You've got to stick something at some point in time."

Wedge said he did not think the timeline was any different from what he was presented when he took the job but that the continued reliance on young players had to be factored in.

"It's just the way it's worked out," he said. "Because you've got a lot of good young players coming, and it's either that or you have to go out and get somebody. We took the alternative of bringing our younger players up. So if you do that, you're not going to win as many games. But you're going to be better suited for the future. It has to be a long-term plan.

"I didn't get here 12 years ago; I didn't get here six years ago. I got here less than three years ago. So this is what we're doing, this is what we're committed to. You have to have strength. You've got to have conviction with what you do. But if somebody else is sitting in this seat tomorrow, they're going to be in a decent situation moving forward, really."

Wedge, 45, missed 27 games in late July and August after a stroke hospitalized him briefly. The team was 59-67 when he returned but then went 10-22. He feels his health situation was a definite disruption, occurring right in the midst of an eight-game winning streak, but should not be a factor going forward.

"That would be unfair," he said. "It's been very clear to me from all the doctors I'm going to be 100 percent. I'm going to have to get into the offseason, and then I'll be fine. They said 3-6 months. But hell, I'm going to be better than I ever have been because evidently my brain wasn't getting enough oxygen each and every night, and I was working all day to catch up from it.

"I'm looking to be fueled and fired the rest of the way. I feel great. I feel like I'm 33 years old again. My best managing days are ahead of me, whether it's here or somewhere else. I want to be here. I moved my family out here. I'm committed to the community. I'm all in.

"I haven't done anything wrong except for come out here and coach up these kids and teach them how to play at the big league level," Wedge added. "That's what I do. I don't bitch about anything. I'm here to help these kids become good, solid big league players and hopefully solid citizens in Seattle. So if that is not enough for them, then so be it."

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