Tigers announce Minors coaching staff

Detroit Tigers

New Tigers manager A.J. Hinch talked earlier this week about setting up a consistent system of instruction up and down the organization. The Tigers’ Minor League staffing is set up to do just that.
“This is something we’ve been working on for a while,” Tigers vice president of player development

New Tigers manager A.J. Hinch talked earlier this week about setting up a consistent system of instruction up and down the organization. The Tigers’ Minor League staffing is set up to do just that.

“This is something we’ve been working on for a while,” Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said Tuesday.

The team on Tuesday announced its list of coaching staffs around the farm system, with few changes from what was slated to be the staffs last year. The group will finally have a chance to work games after the Minor League seasons were cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But their jobs will go beyond games and deep into instruction.

“If you’re a Tigers shortstop and I say, ‘Run out to straight-up shortstop,’ we need to have 10 out of 10 shortstops in this system, from the Dominican Summer League all the way up until the Major Leagues, that run to the same position,” Hinch told Tigers radio broadcaster Dan Dickerson in an interview posted on the Ilitch news hub Monday. “There’s a language that needs to happen where we go to the same position, that we’re not doing one thing in the Minors and one thing in the Major Leagues. So I feel like I’m leading a push to utilize the information that’s already been here and the work that’s gone on behind the scenes, and now just kind of putting a big bow on it and tying it together with what’s going on in the entire organization.”

That has been a goal for the Tigers for several years, going back to the Tiger Way that Al Avila announced shortly after his promotion to general manager.

“A.J. has got great experience in a lot of ways, in a lot of different roles, so he’s going to be very helpful in adding to that,” Littlefield said. “The continuity and the consistency up and down the system, from the Major Leagues on down, is essential. In the player development role, that’s our job to make sure that we’re following suit, whether it be in Toledo or in the Dominican Summer League.”

One example of Hinch’s impact is at Triple-A Toledo, where former Tigers pitcher Doug Bochtler takes over as Mud Hens pitching coach following Juan Nieves’ promotion to assistant pitching coach in Detroit. Bochtler served as the Padres’ bullpen coach from 2016-19, and spent five years as a pitching coach in the D-backs’ system before that.

“I know A.J. Hinch had worked with him in the past, and some others,” Littlefield said. “He’d been a Tiger as a player and was familiar with a bunch of people, including [pitching coordinator] A.J. Sager as well. As we normally do, we interviewed a few people and felt strongly that Doug would be a good fit with his experience, both as a Major League pitcher and having been a bullpen coach.”

Here’s the staff rundown at the various stops:

Triple-A Toledo: Tom Prince gets his chance at manager after spending last year there running the alternate training site. The former Tigers catcher was hired before last season. CJ Wamsley is the developmental coach, Jason Schwartzman is the athletic trainer and Dan Morrison is the strength and conditioning coach.

Double-A Erie: Arnie Beyeler, who was set to manage the SeaWolves last season, gets his opportunity this year. Mark Johnson returns as pitching coach, while former Major League player Adam Melhuse is the new hitting coach. Tony Smith is the developmental coach, Chris Vick the athletic trainer and Phil Hartt the strength and conditioning coach.

Class A Advanced West Michigan: Former Tigers catcher Brayan Peña gets a promotion without having to leave his previous stop thanks to West Michigan’s move to High-A. Willie Blair is back with the Whitecaps as pitching coach, while Bill Springman takes over as hitting coach. Kevin Guthrie is the developmental coach, Cody Derby the athletic trainer and Ryan Maedel the strength and conditioning coach.

Class A Lakeland: Andrew Graham stays with the Flying Tigers at their new level, while Carlos Bohorquez and John Murrian join him as pitching and hitting coaches, respectively. Ollie Kadey is the developmental coach, Sean McFarland the athletic trainer and Dax Fiore the strength and conditioning coach.

Complex League: The Tigers will have two teams in Lakeland, Fla., for the new Rookie-level league, with Ryan Minor and Gary Cathcart as managers. Mike Alvarez and Santiago Garrido will be the pitching coaches. Tim Garland and Rafael Gil will serve as the hitting coaches. Erick Flores and Juan Peña are the athletic trainers, with Andres Rodriguez serving as strength and conditioning coach.

Steve Chase, who spent the last six years as the Tigers’ Minor League strength and conditioning coordinator, has been promoted to Detroit as the team’s Major League strength and conditioning coach, replacing Chris Walter.

On the instructional and administrative side, the Tigers are mostly unchanged. One notable addition is new outfield and baserunning instructor Kimera Bartee; he replaces Gene Roof, who retired in November after 34 years in the organization and 20 in that role.

Bartee, a Tigers outfielder from 1996-99, served in a similar role with the Phillies and Pirates over the last several seasons.

“We spent some time looking around, and obviously when you have Major League experience, it’s a great asset,” Littlefield said. “He’d been in the big leagues with the Pirates for a few years, worked with the Phillies. A bunch of our staff knew him. Alan Trammell in particular had some real nice things to say.”

Other Tigers news:

• The Tigers lost outfield prospect Troy Stokes Jr. on waivers to the Pirates. The 24-year-old was designated for assignment last week to make room for Robbie Grossman on Detroit’s 40-man roster. Stokes made a big impression with a power surge in Spring Training last year, but missed the 2020 season following surgery to repair a fractured hand sustained while getting ready for Summer Camp.

• Right-hander Alex Faedo, the Tigers’ No. 10 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, underwent his scheduled Tommy John surgery, Littlefield said, and is currently getting ready for his rehab process, which he’ll undertake in Lakeland. He’ll miss the 2021 season.

• Lefty Joey Wentz, the Tigers’ No. 9 prospect, is rehabbing in Lakeland following his Tommy John surgery last March. Littlefield said the team hopes to get a better idea for his return timetable in the next few weeks.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck’s Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

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