Q&A With New Grizzlies Manager Bob Mariano

After his first weekend on the job, Fresno Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano is 3-1. The former minor league infielder may be entering his first season as Fresno's top dog, but Mariano is no stranger to the Giants' organization. He served as minor league hitting coordinator since 2005, shepherding big time talent to the big club. We sat down with Mariano last week to see what's in store for 2012.

Q: To start, with Brandon Belt and Brett Pill -- two of the team's biggest contributors last season -- making the Giants' 25-man roster, how do you go about replacing their production?

A. Well, I'm pretty excited they made the club, because being the hitting coordinator for the past seven years, it's great to see two of the guys that we've developed in the minor league system play in the big leagues.

So I think that's the least of our worries -- worrying about production at triple-A. But what I think we might do -- it's been real up in the air for first base -- I'm thinking we might run Todd Linden over there to start.

Linden will be there, and obviously we have some guys coming back. [Conor] Gillaspie, [Eli] Whiteside, and we'll have some new guys come up, so you expect them to pick up the slack and the production.

Q: As you mentioned, you are pretty familiar with the hitters in the Giants organization, so how will that familiarity help you early in the season, especially for a team that struggled offensively last season?

A: I'll be another set of eyes for [hitting coach] Russ Morman. For seven years, I've known these guys' swings pretty well, and we all pretty much have our fingerprints on these guys.

[Former Fresno manager and current minor league hitting instructor] Steve Decker teaches a lot of the same things that I teach. So it'll be a good perspective. I'll just be another set of eyes for those two guys and help out when need be. And if I see something, I'll give some advice and go from there.

Q: From your perspective, what does it mean for you to have a chance to manage this team this year?

A: Well, I've always missed managing -- I managed in triple-A before, back in '97, and then A-ball with the Dodgers in 2001 -- so I'm really looking forward to it. The Giants showed some faith in me to manage these guys in triple-A and help them get ready for the big leagues.

Q: Some people might say that managing triple-A is a really difficult thing to do: Not only having to balance the roster you have, but having to deal with guys getting called up to the majors every now and then. How do you go about dealing with that as the season progresses?

A: You know, I don't really look at it that way. I think that managing comes natural to me with my personality, with positive reinforcement: I'm a positive guy, anyone who's ever been around me knows that. And I just take the positive and the work ethic. I don't care who I have, because I know they'll get better at the end of the year.

And at triple-A you are trying to get guys ready for the major leagues. Obviously you want to win, but I think winning will come with good effort. And if you work hard every day and do the right things, the wins will follow you. I think if you start chasing wins as a manager, then you're going to be in for a long year. You just have to show faith in the guys and good things will happen.

Q: The starting rotation you have coming back was really strong last year. What do you expect from them this year?

A: That's one area that I don't really know the guys that well, so I'm really going to rely on [pitching coach] Pat Rice for a lot of input as far as who we throw in certain situations.

Obviously we have some guys with experience, but it will be interesting to see how that unfolds. The PCL is a hitter's league and obviously guys are going to get their innings, but I am going to rely on Pat a lot with these guys.

Q: Not knowing who you'll have on your team that close to the start of the season, does it make the first couple of games a bit of a learning curve?

A: Yeah it's going to be. Just to see how it upholds, what our roles are going to be as we try to establish a pitching staff. But all of those goals can change.

Our organization has a pretty good idea and they'll let us know who they want to get innings and at-bats. It's not easy for us because that's what they want.

Q: The Giants organization as a whole has done incredibly well with developing homegrown players, and you've obviously been at the forefront of that. What makes the Giants so successful at developing players?

A: It starts with scouting. That's really the backbone of an organization, scouting and player development.

Scouts have a tough job to go out and find talent. Then we polish them up and teach them how to play and how to win. Obviously it starts with the leadership up top -- with Brian Sabean and guys who have been there a long time doing a lot of right things. And the player development people who are hardworking and knowledgeable. Those guys have managed, they've been coordinators, so they have a broad experience in their teaching abilities.

As a hitting coordinator, you're only as good as your hitting guys at every level, and that's what we've been fortunate with. So hopefully we can continue producing guys who are productive at the major league level.

Q: You mentioned you don't like chasing wins. What are some of the goals you have for the team this year?

A: The biggest goal I have is I want to create an atmosphere where you want to come to the ballpark and work hard and have fun.

You want to get the players ready, so that when they get a call-up, they are ready to go there and perform. This is all about the players and getting them ready.

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