Daren Brown is beginning his fourth season as manager of the Tacoma Rainiers. In 2009 the team was in first place or tied for the top spot for only 11 games the entire year before finishing with a rush. The Rainiers won the Pacific North Division on the final day of the season to secure their first playoff berth since 2005. This year, they have been in first or tied for first 27 games out of 83 played through July 4.
Earlier this summer Brown was named to manage the Pacific Coast League team in the Triple A All Star game on July 14. The game will be played at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Penn., home of the International League’s Lehigh Valley Ironpigs.
Brown sat down recently with Tacoma Weekly baseball writer Karen Westeen to talk about the game as well as the first half of the season.
TW: How have you managed to keep going and bring the team into first place with 91 transactions in the first half?
DB: I don’t count the transactions. That’s just part of what happens at this level. I try to get guys ready to go up to the big league club. We’re going to have a lot of different faces in here. I always look at it that when we promote a guy to the big leagues that’s an opportunity for somebody to come in here. That’s the way I try to let it come across to these guys. They understand it. You try to stay consistent with everything you’re doing but it gets tough with a lot of different faces all the time.
TW: What has been the highlight of the first half?
DB: I think just where we’re sitting right now. We’ve had some good series, including the last one here with Salt Lake, winning four out of six games. And going into Sacramento the first time, winning three out of four. That’s a tough place to play. I think our starting pitching has been very good. Chris Sedden, Luke French and David Pauley, before he got called up to Seattle June 27, all have done nice jobs. And offensively we’ve got some guys that are putting together solid years.
TW: What has been the biggest surprise?
DB: I wouldn’t say it’s a complete surprise because he could do it any time but Sedden winning nine games and getting a couple of complete game shut-outs has been nice.
TW: You have had two major leaguers (Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard) down here on rehab starts. Is there a difference in managing players for one game versus having major league players on the roster for several games?
DB: There’s obviously a big difference. With the player coming down on rehab we’re trying to get him some work against live competition and the biggest thing is to get the work in and have him feel good afterward and hopefully he’ll be ready to go again in five days. With players that get optioned down from the parent club we don’t know how long they’ll be here or even if they’ll get back up.
TW: What was your first reaction when you heard you were chosen to manage the PCL All Star team?
DB: I was excited about it. I think it’s a good opportunity. Whenever you get the opportunity to coach, manage or play in any All Star game I think it’s an honor and I’m looking forward to it.
TW: That’s a fairly new park where the game’s being played so you probably haven’t even seen it.
DB: I’ve never seen any of the International League parks. I think it’ll be fun. It’ll be a lot of miles logged in a three-day period, leaving here to go home, then on to Lehigh Valley and then get back to Reno for our series after the break. It’ll be a quick three days but I’m looking forward to it.
TW: What about not being able to get home to see your family over the three-day break?
DB: My wife Cindy’s going with me. We’re expecting our first child in October so I’m going home to Texas on Monday. It’s the only time I can go to one doctor visit with her. Then we’ll fly out of Amarillo and get to Philadelphia that night.
TW: Luke French (9-2, 2.39 ERA, both second in the PCL) is the only Tacoma player voted onto the team. If you could pick one more person from the team to go to the All Star game who would it be?
DB: Seddon’s got really good numbers (9-4, 3.46 ERA) and he’s had a really good first half. Infielders Matt Mangini and Brad Nelson have been solid the first half. We’ve got some guys that the numbers say should have an opportunity but the voting’s done online and their not going doesn’t take away the fact that they’ve had a good first half.
TW: If a player from the All Star roster gets called up before the game do you have the opportunity to pick someone to take his place and would it be somebody from your team?
DB: I don’t know how they do that. I think someone from that player’s team would get the call but I’ll worry about that when it happens.
TW: You get to see the players together for a short time, just one day before the game, and some of them you have not seen play yet during the first half of the season. How much time will you have to plan your pitching and batting line-ups for the All Star game? Have you been able to watch video or talk to managers of teams which you have not played yet to know about players you haven’t seen?
DB: I will have plenty of time to plan the pitching and line ups for the PCL since the starters are somewhat set. I have not seen players from four teams in the PCL but they are All-Stars and I will use everybody if possible.
TW: How much scouting have you been able to do for the IL players so you know how to plan pitching and batting match-ups?
DB: I’m not real concerned over match-ups with the IL players unless it is somebody I am familiar with. I can also tell you we still have more than a week before the actual game and I anticipate there will be changes as parent clubs take up a few guys.
The game is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. PDT on July 14 and can be heard locally on South Sound Sports 850 AM. It will be televised nationally on MLB Network.