Daren Brown is in his fifth season managing the Tacoma Rainiers. As of July 2 he has an overall W-L record of 324-308 with Tacoma. Since last year’s All Star Break, Brown has experienced some major changes in his life. He spent the final two months of 2010 as the Mariners’ interim manager (going 19-31) and in November he and his wife welcomed their first child, a daughter. He was also pretty much an onlooker as the Rainiers won the 2010 Pacific Coast League championship.
In 2010 the Rainiers had a regular season record of 74-69, plus the 6-3 run through the playoffs. On July 2 last year they were 43-38, in first place. But as of July 2, 2011, the team is 41-44, and has only been above .500 for one day, April 9, when their record was 2-1. Since then they have been as many as 10 games under .500. They currently are in second place in their division, 9.5 games behind Reno.
Tacoma Weekly baseball correspondent Karen Westeen talked with Brown recently about some of these changes and this season so far.
TW: Talk about the changes in your personal and professional life since the middle of the 2010 season.
DB: There’s no doubt that 2010 was an exciting year for me and my family, first and foremost. And there was managing the PCL team in the Triple A All Star game and jumping out to a nine game lead here. Then the first of August I’m asked to go to Seattle. A lot of things happened that were unexpected. It was a good year for me and I went at it the way I do anything, doing the best job I can.
TW: Then you come back to manage in Tacoma this year, but the year didn’t start out quite the same as last year, and you had to fight through early injuries and transactions.
DB: Starting the first two weeks of the season, Greg Halman gets hit in the hand, Mike Wilson ran into a wall, and Carlos Peguero got called up and we lost the outfield right off the bat. We didn’t have any of those guys, and we got off to a 1-7 start. Now we’ve had our first winning month in June and I’m trying to look at, when things aren’t very good, not to get down, but to look at how we can win ballgames.
TW: What was it like to work with some of your players at the Major League level after you had been managing them here?
DB: It was different to see those guys at that level. I’ve seen some of them before after the September call-ups (but) it was a good experience for me to see them at that level (longer). We talk about trying to make them good Big League players while they’re down here, not make them good Triple A players. You see things they need to work on.
TW: You came back to a totally different stadium. What’s that done to the way you manage?
DB: I made the comment when we had a losing record early that all the wins must have been in the first base dugout, but really the biggest thing is the lowered wall (behind left and right field). The homers hit on June 30 probably would not have gotten out last year. But that’s the same for both teams. Sometimes we benefit from (the changes), and it hurts us also.
TW: But all the changes weren’t in the stadium. Your staff changed too, but the personnel are people who have been here before. Alonzo Powell was the hitting coach here since 2008 until he went to Seattle to fill in that same position last May and Dwight Bernard was your pitching coach from 2007 to 2009.
DB: Those two guys worked together with me for a couple of years, and so did our trainer Tom Newberg. There’s familiarity between us and that’s always good.
TW: Reliever Josh Lueke was chosen as the Rainiers’ only All Star representative this year. If you could pick someone else to go to the game July 13 in Salt Lake City, who would it be?
DB: Of the ones who are here right now, Mike Wilson. He went to the big leagues for the first time this spring and he’s put together a solid year. (Wilson currently has the team’s fourth highest batting average, .348, in only 40 games, and has nine home runs, third highest on the team.)
TW: On June 30 you brought up two new catchers, Ralph Henriquez and Trevor Coleman, from the lower minors after both Josh Bard and Jose Yepez got called up to the Mariners the same day. How do you handle that situation where neither has probably worked more than a few innings at spring training with any of your pitchers?
DB: Sometimes at this level for the first time they get a little antsy, a little anxious, but it’s still the same game. I want to relax them, let them know there will be mistakes made. I’ve never sent both catchers up on the same night before.
TW: The team’s not playing as well at home as they usually do. Do transactions play a part in that?
DB: During the off-season we lost Chris Seddon, David Winfree, and Brad Nelson, and David Pauley’s in Seattle. Some of our guys got off to slow starts, and we battled through replacements and injuries. On the other hand we haven’t pitched as well or swung the bats as well at home. When we’re not making big pitches, not playing good defense, not getting a big hit, you’re not going to win one-run ball games.
TW: Any thoughts on the second half?
DB: You can only take it day-to-day, and look at what can we do to get better for tomorrow. For instance, players shouldn’t be missing signs after we’ve been playing for three months. We’re here to get them ready to go up and I’ll try to put them in the best scenarios I can. They understand they’re here to work on things to get (back) to the Big League level. (That means) pay attention to what’s going on here not what’s going on 30 miles up the road.