Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon watches during Seattle Mariners' spring training baseball practice Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel
February 21, 2015

PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon got off to a fine start in his first season, guiding the team within one game of a playoff for the AL wild-card spot.

After going 87-75, the expectations are even higher this year, especially with newcomer Nelson Cruz set to be the designated hitter.

The Mariners made a 16-game improvement under McClendon and snapped a streak of four straight losing seasons. Only Houston and the Los Angeles Angels saw a bigger jump in wins from the year before.

With Cruz and new outfielders Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano ready to provide run support for a strong pitching staff, McClendon is eager to get going.

''We've gotten significantly better in a lot of areas, or we hope that we have,'' McClendon said before his pitchers and catchers took the field for their first spring training workout.

McClendon, who previously managed Pittsburgh, spent last season learning about Seattle's players. Now, he feels he knows his personnel and its capabilities much better than last spring.

''The message that I'll send to my players is preparation, not expectations,'' McClendon said. ''We have to prepare and you have to put the time in, you have to put the work in to make sure that you're ready for the grind of a 162-game schedule.''

A lot of position players have already arrived in camp and are taking groundballs and flyballs and hitting in the cages, which McClendon is happy to see. He also made note of the fact that the World Series champion San Francisco Giants won only one more regular-season game than the Mariners last season.

''Get in, and hopefully you get on a run,'' McClendon said.

First baseman Logan Morrison said McClendon has done a good job putting the players in a position to execute in games, and creates a favorable work environment in spring training.

''He kind of lets us do our thing and gets us off our feet in spring training, gets us in and out and makes sure we get our work done,'' Morrison said. ''As far as that goes, the best camp I've ever had.''

The familiarity with many of the players from last season can only help, Morrison added.

''Our expectations should always be the same, and that's to win a pennant and get a chance to win a World Series,'' he said. ''That's what we thought last year. Hopefully this year we can take that next step.''

NOTES: McClendon was asked about Major League Baseball's instant replay modifications and speed-up rules. ''I've been frustrated by the whole thing. I think in an unfair way, managers have been portrayed as guys that are walking out slow and wasting time,'' he said. ''Well, what are you supposed to do? You've got to wait on the replay system to find out if you should challenge. And now they're telling you to stay in the dugout, and then the umpires are going to be saying Hurry up, let's go.''' ... Newcomer Rickie Weeks will work at his longtime position, second base, as well as third, first and in the outfield, McClendon said. ... Utility player Willie Bloomquist is coming off of right knee surgery and wants to get to work right away, but McClendon said he will ease him into action. ''I've got to make sure he's healthy,'' McClendon said. ''So we're going to pace him and back him off a little bit. I'm sure he's not going to like it, but that's the way it is.''

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