At Low-A, West Michigan will welcome former Tiger and long time minor league veteran Ernie Young to the helm of the club. Young is widely considered one of the up and coming managing/coaching talents in baseball, and he should be a great addition to the Tigers organization. He will be flanked by the return of pitching coach Mark Johnson and the arrival of former big leaguer Ben Oglivie as hitting coach.
The Lakeland staff returns intact with Andy Barkett leading the way, and Joe Coleman and Larry Herndon returning as pitching and hitting coaches, respectively. The returning Flying Tigers staff will try to build on a 2010 season that saw the club finish above .500 despite an abundance of roster moves and promotions from the Gulf Coast League Tigers.
At the top two levels in the organization, the coaching staffs are set for now, but things could still be in flux as the off-season gets further underway. Double-A Erie will see the return of Phil Nevin as manager, and Ray Burris as pitching coach. The hitting coach that will replace Glen Adams – who left the team mid-season last year – has been finalized, but not announced at this time.
Just one step down from the big leagues, the Triple-A Toledo coaching staff is set to remain intact as well, though there could be some changes on the horizon. Both manager Larry Parrish and hitting coach Leon “Bull” Durham are rumored to be potential candidates for various big league opportunities, and if called upon, both may be prone to heading back to the game’s highest level. Despite his success in helping Tigers starters Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello last year, pitching coach AJ Sager is poised to return to Toledo for another season.
The coaching staff of each of the Tigers short-season clubs in the New York-Penn League and the GCL, have also recently been finalized.
Former catching coordinator and GCL hitting coach Andrew Graham will take over as the head guy with the Connecticut Tigers. The Connecticut job will be Graham’s first as manager, though he is widely viewed as a strong leader and knowledgeable baseball man.
Graham will have former manager Howard Bushong’s staff in tow as he embarks on his managerial debut. Scott Dwyer and Jorge Cordova will return as the CT-Tigers hitting and pitching coaches in 2011.
At the GCL level, Basilio Cabrera will come back in 2011 for another turn leading the Tigers club. He has fit in well in the highly instructional environment of the GCL, and he will be joined by the return of Tiger Town Pitching Coordinator and GCL pitching coach Greg Sabat. Making his coaching debut as the GCL hitting coach will be former Tiger Mike Rabelo.
Rabelo spent seven of his nine minor league seasons (along with part of two big league seasons) in the Tigers organization, and also spent part of another season in the big leagues with the Marlins, after being dealt away as part of the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. Rabelo has long been viewed as a potential coach given his people skills, leadership abilities, and understanding of the game, and he will get his first opportunity next season.
With new Director of Player Development Mike Rojas having input in many of the team’s minor league decisions, it was expected that the coaching and development staffs would take on a bit of a different look for the 2011 season, and all of the moves may not be complete yet.
Aside from potential movement at the Triple-A level, there is likely to be additional movement among the Tigers developmental staff and roving instructors. Joe DePastino has already been moved into the role of Roving Catching Instructor, and with Kevin Bradshaw assuming the duties of Minor League Field Coordinator, Rojas and the Tigers should be expected to name a new Minor League Infield Coordinator in the near future.