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Molitor signs one-year contract with Seattle

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners needed a hitting coach, and
an impressive candidate was available. The team hired Paul Molitor
on Thursday, signing him to a one-year contract.

"When a guy of Paul's professional stature comes along,
interviews as well as he did and has the obvious hitting knowledge
he does, well, it became clear who our first choice was," manager
Bob Melvin said.

Molitor, MVP of the 1993 World Series for Toronto, had 3,319
hits and a .306 career average in 21 major league seasons from
1978-98.

He played with Milwaukee (1978-92), Toronto (1993-95) and
Minnesota (1996-98).

He had a 39-game hitting streak in 1987 and led baseball with
216 hits in 1991, 211 hits in 1993 and 225 in 1996. The 47-year-old
Molitor will be eligible for the Hall of Fame on the next ballot.

Molitor, one of four candidates interviewed by Melvin and
outgoing general manager Pat Gillick, understands what's involved
for hitters and believes he can connect with them.

"A good hitting coach knows his hitters well," Molitor said.
"He knows what makes them successful and can recognize what they
need to do once they get away from that path.

"You've got to be available. You've got to be a positive
voice."

Molitor sees a lineup of solid hitters with the Mariners, who
for the second consecutive season won 93 games but failed to reach
the playoffs. He cited Bret Boone, Edgar Martinez, Randy Winn and
Ichiro Suzuki as contributors.

And Molitor knows John Olerud from their days together in
Toronto.

"There are certain guys, maybe you feel you can help along the
way," Molitor said. "There are a lot of guys who can contribute
to making our offense productive and competitive with other teams
around the league."

Inevitably, Molitor was asked if he can help Jeff Cirillo.

The third baseman, known for strong defense and poor hitting,
slumped to .249 and .205 with the Mariners the past two seasons
after hitting as high as .326 in 1999 in the National League.

"I'm not sure what he's taken on there," Molitor said.
"Certainly, we've seen him be successful at other places. I look
forward to seeing him and talking to him to get his thoughts on
what's happened."

When Molitor was interviewed recently, Boone and Martinez were
in the building and got word of his visit.

"The message from Edgar was, 'What are we waiting for? Let's
hire him,' " Melvin said.

"He has studied his craft," Melvin said. "Not only was he
successful, he knows his craft. He brings instant respect."

Gillick, who was GM in Toronto when Molitor played there, has
tried to lure Molitor to other jobs in recent years. But the timing
wasn't good until now, Molitor said.

"I'm real surprised he keeps asking me to consider jobs," he
said. "I've turned him down a few times, including playing in
Baltimore."

Molitor spent the 2003 season as a roving instructor in the
Minnesota Twins' system and served as an extra coach during the
playoffs.

He was offered a similar role for 2004 but chose to pursue a
full-time coaching job in the majors. The Twins told Molitor their
major league staff was filled for next season.

"I totally understand that when a staff has been successful in
shaping a team into a playoff club in only a couple of years,
people are doing a good job," Molitor said.

The Seattle job opened the day after the season ended, when
Lamar Johnson left in what was characterized as a mutual decision.
Seattle batted .271 last season to rank fifth in the AL.