Mariners make additions to player development staff

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mariners Executive Vice President & General Manager of Baseball Operations Jack Zduriencik announced Monday the following Player Development assignments.

Lee May Jr. -- Minor League Hitting Coordinator
John Stearns -- Minor League Catching Coordinator
Gary Wheelock -- Minor League Rehab Pitching Coordinator
Jesus Azuaje -- Latin America Field Coordinator
Jimmy Southard -- Minor League Training Coordinator

May joins the Mariners as the Minor League Hitting Coordinator. He is entering his 22nd season in professional baseball, including roles as a Major League player, coach, minor league manager and scouting supervisor. He was most recently a coach for the Columbus Clippers in the Indians organization in 2010-11. Last season the Clippers offense led the International League in both average (.285) and on-base percentage (.356), and won back-to-back Triple-A titles. May was a first-round selection (21st overall) by the New York Mets in the 1986 draft, and played eight seasons in the minors with the Mets and Kansas City Royals from 1986-1993.

Stearns will switch roles from a Major League scout with the Mariners to working with the minor league catchers. A four-time All-Star and 11-year Major League veteran, Stearns has spent over 35 years in professional baseball, including roles as a Major League coach (Yankees, Reds, Orioles, Mets) minor league manager (9 seasons), scout and even as an ESPN analyst.

Wheelock will be in his 29th season as a coach in the Mariners organization, including the last eight seasons as the pitching coach with Peoria (2004-2011). He was also the Mariners minor league roving pitching instructor from 1983-86. He coached with Oklahoma City in 1987, before re-joining the Mariners organization in 1988. Wheelock was the first player to ever sign a contract with the Mariners on Nov. 17, 1976, after being the 3rd pick in the 1976 expansion draft. His Major League career included stints with California (1976) and Seattle (1977 and 1980).

Azuaje (ah-ZWA-heh) will begin his sixth season in the Mariners organization and will head up the on-field instruction for the Mariners academies in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. He spent the last two seasons as Manager of the Mariners rookie-level entry in the Arizona Summer League. He previously coached in Pulaski (2008) and the Mariners Venezuelan Summer League team (2007). Azuaje played in parts of 11 seasons in the minors with Cleveland (1993-94), New York-NL (1995-98), Milwaukee (1999) and Detroit (2000). He also played in the Independent Atlantic League from 2001-03, and spent the 2004-06 season playing in Italy with the T&A Sam Marino.

Southard begins his first season in the Mariners organization as the Minor League Training Coordinator. He spent the last three seasons in the Diamondbacks organization (2009-11), including last season as an Assistant Medical Coordinator. He previously served as a trainer in the Rays organization from 2003-08. In 2006, he was named the Minor League Athletic Trainer of the Year as well as the California League Athletic Trainer of the Year by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society. He holds a Bachelor's degree in physical education from Northern Arizona University and a Master's of Science in Human Movement from A.T. Still University in Mesa, AZ.