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Mattingly makes his pitch to take over Yankees

Don Mattingly has been making managerial moves with the New York Yankees for several seasons - in his head.

"I've heard that experience thing come up a lot," he said, "but in my own mind I've been managing for the last four years, and to be honest with you, as a player you're playing along the whole time."

After four seasons as a coach, Mattingly was interviewed yesterday to replace departed manager Joe Torre. Yankees broadcaster Joe Girardi interviewed a day earlier, and first base coach Tony Pena is due to speak with team officials today.

Mattingly was true to his humble Indiana roots, saying he spoke from the heart and just tried to be himself.

"It's an unbelievable opportunity for whoever gets it, and if it's me I'm looking forward to that challenge," said Mattingly, who met with owner George Steinbrenner, sons Hank and Hal, and other team executives at the Yankees spring training facility in Tampa.

Mattingly is considered the leading candidate for the job. Hank Steinbrenner said Monday four or five people will be interviewed, but it's possible the candidates will be limited to the trio.

Mattingly spent this season as bench coach following three years as hitting coach under Torre. He didn't back away from his relationship with the former manager but also highlighted some of his other influences.

"There's a lot of Joe Torre in me but there's also a lot of Billy Martin and Lou Piniella and whatever creates the personality inside of me that says we need to get this job done," Mattingly said.

Even while the Yankees tried to move on from the messy departure of Torre, Mattingly faced questions about his similarities to the former manager.

Also yesterday, shortstop Derek Jeter made his first public comments since Torre left last week after 12 seasons.

"In my eyes, Joe Torre is more than a Hall of Fame manager," Jeter said in a statement released by the team. "He is a friend for life, and the relationship we have shared has helped shape me in ways that transcend the game of baseball. His class, dignity, and the way he respected those around him - from ballplayers to batboys - are all qualities that are easy to admire, but difficult to duplicate."

Torre also elaborated about his final meeting with the Steinbrenners in Tampa, saying on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" that he told the owner he was being held to an impossible standard.

"Every year, it was disappointment, disappointment, disappointment," Torre said in the interview. "I just didn't think that was the right thing. And I just let them know how I felt. But when I was speaking, it was, there was nothing coming back."

Back in the game

Mel Stottlemyre, who continues to be treated for multiple myeloma, was getting his white blood cells counted for yet another month. Unsolicited, his doctor said he could go back to full-time work again, back to the ballpark routine he had followed just about every summer for 41 years. Then came another unexpected offer.

Stottlemyre returns to the major leagues as the pitching coach of the Seattle Mariners, accepting the first of what he hopes is a series of one-year contracts. It's the only job that could get him back into a dugout.

"I certainly hope it lasts for more than one year," Stottlemyre said. "Whatever happens, at my age and certainly with my health issue, I'm excited for the opportunity."

The 65-year-old former pitching coach for the Yankees and Mets got cleared to return to the bigs during a visit to his Seattle-area doctor this summer.

The former five-time All-Star with the Yankees left them in 2005, after 10 seasons and four World Series titles as New York's pitching coach. He said he was tired of criticism from Steinbrenner. Raised in Mabton, Wash., he returned to his home in the Seattle suburb of Issaquah and interviewed that fall to become manager Mike Hargrove's pitching coach with the Mariners. Hargrove chose relatively inexperienced Rafael Chaves instead.

When Hargrove resigned July 1, John McLaren took over. Once the season ended, McLaren called to ask Stottlemyre to replace Chaves, after Seattle's starters had a 5.12 ERA in 2007 - 12th in the AL. They were the main reason for the remarkable September collapse that doomed Seattle's unlikely contention for a playoff spot.

"Mel was my No. 1 choice," McLaren said. "His reputation speaks for itself."

The Mariners also signed former Red Sox pitching coach and executive Dave Wallace to be a special assistant to the general manager. Wallace spent this past season as the pitching coach for Houston after 3 1/2 seasons in the same job with Boston. He will assist general manager Bill Bavasi and be a roving instructor of Seattle's minor league pitchers during the 2008 season. He will also work with Stottlemyre during spring training.

"Dave is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the game and he's very talented in the skills necessary in his role as organizational pitching coordinator," Bavasi said of Wallace, 60, who also spent 17 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, including as an executive vice president.

A's get Wakamatsu

The Oakland Athletics hired Don Wakamatsu away from Texas to be their bench coach, agreeing to terms on a two-year contract with the Bay Area native. The 44-year-old Wakamatsu replaces Bob Schaefer on manager Bob Geren's staff . . . The Chicago White Sox hired Jeff Cox as their third base coach and Juan Nieves as their bullpen coach.

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