He was Dan the Man to his fans, and Dan Wilson is the man again, if you ask the Seattle Mariners’ catchers.
Wilson, the popular former Mariner, is back at spring training this week to serve as a guest instructor. His status as a former big-leaguer gives him instant credibility, and his easygoing nature makes him a hit with players and coaches.
Oh, and Wilson — who turns 39 on March 25 and is not three years removed from his last season as a player — looks like he’s still in good enough shape to suit up.
Could be the recreational hockey league he’s part of on the East Coast.
“I haven’t really done anything to keep in shape, but thankfully it hasn’t gone to my belt yet,” he said.
Wilson is part of a group of ex-Mariners that manager John McLaren has brought in to talk to the team and work with players. Jay Buhner and Rich Amaral had been working with the outfielders and Amaral on baserunning.
“The only difference between (Wilson) and Buhner is he’s like, a whole lot quieter,” McLaren said. “They have history here. They’re still part of our family and our organization and they always will be, and we know that they bring a lot to the table and we want them to share their experiences with our players.”
Wilson learned from Mariners catching coordinator Roger Hansen, so his style was very similar to the other catchers currently on the team.
“There are some basic fundamentals that all catchers do, so it’s nice that these guys are similar and we can share ideas and talk,” Wilson said. “It’s been good. I think it’s a credit to the organization because these are good guys and they want to learn and they want to get better and they’ve got some talent.”
The catchers are soaking it up, even the veterans.
“I don’t know if you could say hero or idol or something like that, but a lot of us looked up to him,” catcher Jamie Burke said. “So bringing him in there, we get good feedback from a guy that caught behind the dish for 12, 13 years and did a very good job at it.”
Wilson worked with starting catcher Kenji Johjima on handling a sinker. Aside from work, he’s also enjoyed reuniting with former coaches and teammates and getting to know the younger players.
“I watched the way he played and I liked it during his time,” catcher Jair Fernandez said, “and now I can get it in person and put it into practice.”
—Adrian Beltre didn’t participate in drills Friday because of a sore left thumb. It’s the same one he sprained last season when he missed five starts in June. The injury happened when a hard ground ball in Thursday’s game struck the lower part of the thumb on his glove hand. Beltre is expected to be available to play on Saturday if he feels better.
—Ichiro was hitless in two at-bats Friday in the Mariners’ 6-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, but scored his first run of spring training on Yuniesky Betancourt’s home run in the top of the first inning. Ichiro is 0 for 10 in four games, while Betancourt is batting .400 (6 for 15).
—Carlos Silva allowed all six Cubs runs in 3-1/3 innings. It was his second spring start, and he surrendered seven hits with two walks. “I was missing my location so many times,” he said. “I was behind in the count too much.”
—R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball was effective against the Cubs, as he struck out the first two batters he faced and worked three innings of scoreless, one-hit relief for the Mariners. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre offered Dickey a tip — not to rush with his delivery — and it worked, as Dickey improved from his one-run, three-walk appearance on Tuesday.
—Friday’s attendance of 12,842 at Hohokam Park was a sellout and the largest crowd for a Mariners Cactus League game to date.