Riggleman staying positive, ready to lead way for struggling Mariners

ATLANTA -- Jim Riggleman took over as Seattle's manager on Friday with an upbeat attitude, urging players to ignore speculation about the impending dismantling of the team, relax and have fun.

"I don't really need to be thinking in terms of there's four or five things that have got to be done," Riggleman said before his debut Friday night against the Atlanta Braves.

"The less we have of that the better. ... I just look at it like, these are the players I have, let's go get 'em."

The Mariners (25-47) are on pace to become the first team with a $100 million payroll to lose 100 games.

"It just hasn't flowed as a team," Riggleman said. "We've got to see if we can get them feeling better about themselves.

"Whatever is there, we'll get it out of them."

Riggleman, 55, was promoted from bench coach when John McLaren was fired on Thursday morning. Riggleman received the news only minutes before the team boarded buses for the long flight to Atlanta.

General manager Bill Bavasi also was fired on Monday. Lee Pelekoudas was made interim GM.

There is speculation that first baseman Richie Sexson and other players could be released or traded.

Sexson, earning $14 million but hitting .220 with nine homers and 23 RBIs, started Friday night and hit fifth. He has not had an extra-base hit in almost a month.

"There should be a lot of baseball left. He's still a young man," Riggleman said. "He's not done at 33. He's going to go out there and hopefully get it turned on. It may be something he does, something that he says, 'There it is! Now I feel it.' "

The Mariners began the day 17½ games out of the AL West lead and 22 games under .500, the worst mark in the major leagues.

Riggleman said he wants to help players prove they deserve to remain in Seattle. Similarly, he hopes to prove he should be more than an interim manager.

"I was told it's my position until the end of the year, and that's how I'm looking at it," he said.

"I think myself, the coaches, we want to make it a tough decision for anybody to run this group out of here. The better we play and the harder we work, there's a better chance for everybody."

Riggleman spoke to a large group of reporters before managing his first game since Oct. 3, 1999, the end of his five-year run as the Chicago Cubs manager. Riggleman was San Diego's manager for the final 12 games in 1992 and was retained for 1993 and part of the 1994 season.

Riggleman's overall record is 486-598 (.448). He was the minor league field coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals the last three seasons and was bench coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2001-04.

After the long wait for another opportunity to manage, Riggleman said "you start thinking it might not happen."

"It's an honor and a privilege to manage at this level," he said. "I never take anything for granted."