Mariners president supports manager during slow start

SEATTLE -- Despite a disappointing start to the Seattle Mariners season and diminishing crowds at Safeco Field, manager John McLaren still has the confidence of club president Chuck Armstrong.

"I think he's doing fine," Armstrong said Wednesday before the Mariners played Texas. "He's fine. I like the staff. They give him good support."

Fans, however, have not provided their usual turnstile support. The club is eighth in the American League in attendance, averaging 26,008 a game, and the crowd of 15,818 Tuesday night was the smallest in Safeco Field history.

"No matter who we're playing, it seems like there's so much other stuff going on in May -- kids' soccer games, youth baseball, school getting out," Armstrong said. "It's been my experience that we draw better in April than we do during May."

The team's 14-20 record Wednesday night and last-place tie with Texas in the AL West going into a game against the Rangers on Wednesday night has not helped, either.

"We've had some good times and good moments. Opening Day was a special day," Armstrong said, "but to be where we are right now with the schedule we started with, I'm disappointed. We're all disappointed. We have a good team here. We should be playing better than what we are.

"Sometimes these things happen. Detroit has the exact same record as we do. I expect at the end we both will have better records. I hope we end in first place in the American League West."

McLaren says his faith in his players is also unshaken.

"I haven't heard anybody making any excuses. I'm not going to make any excuses. I certainly accept the responsibility," the manager said. "This is something that we work hard on every day. We talk about what can do differently.

"I still have confidence in these guys. I know they have confidence in themselves."

He said the loss of closer J.J. Putz (rib injury) for much of April hurt the Mariners, while the offense has lagged with a number of regulars hitting .200 or less.

"They'll get a couple hits, then go three, four without doing something," McLaren said. "I don't have to name names. They know who they are. I'm not trying to embarrass anybody. It's just a matter of getting them going.

"I don't think it's a lack of leadership. It's nothing you can put your finger on. If it was, we'd put a finger on it. It's a little bit of everything."

Armstrong said he could not comment on speculation about former Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., who has indicated he would be interested in leaving Cincinnati and returning to Seattle, but said one player does not fill a stadium.

"Can a player help attendance? I think for a period of time a player can, but after that it gets down to winning and losing," Armstrong said. "We have some very exciting players here now."