DETROIT — Lloyd McClendon could get a chance to manage Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene after all.
Just over a year after McClendon managed Detroit down the stretch of the 2020 season and interviewed for the full-time job, the longtime Tigers coach returns to the organization to play a role in the team’s youth movement. McClendon was named the new manager at Triple-A Toledo on Thursday, his second stint as the Mud Hens’ skipper.
McClendon replaces Gary Jones, who was just hired in December to manage the Mud Hens but was promoted to Detroit on Thursday. Jones will serve as the Tigers’ first-base coach after Kimera Bartee passed away suddenly in December.
Jones’ promotion opened up the Toledo job at a time when most organizations have filled their coaching and developmental staffs. With Spring Training looming, the Tigers turned to a trusted figure to fill one of the most critical roles in the organization.
The 63-year-old McClendon is no stranger to the Tigers or to Toledo. He coached under three managers in Detroit, beginning on Jim Leyland’s staff in 2006. He interviewed for the managerial opening once Leyland retired in ’13, left to manage the Mariners in ’14, then returned to manage the Mud Hens in ’16 before returning to his old role as hitting coach under Brad Ausmus a year later.
McClendon stayed on to coach on Ron Gardenhire’s staff before serving as interim manager for the final eight games of the 2020 season following Gardenhire’s retirement. McClendon interviewed again for the full-time job before the Tigers hired A.J. Hinch. He was mostly out of baseball last year, save for a stint working with Dan Dickerson on Tigers radio broadcasts when the team was in Chicago last June.
Given his tenure in the organization, McClendon will likely already be familiar with most of his roster when the Mud Hens begin their season in April. That would include top prospects Torkelson and Greene, if they open the season there. Both worked with McClendon during the Tigers’ Summer Camp in 2020, and Greene was part of Spring Training earlier that year.
“I am looking forward to returning to Toledo and working with the Tigers in a developmental role,” McClendon said in a statement. “Fifth Third Field is a tremendous ballpark, and Toledo has some of the most passionate baseball fans in all of Minor League baseball. It is something that I really enjoyed being around in 2016 and am looking forward to that once again.”
The 61-year-old Jones also has some familiarity with his new group. Not only did he coach new Tigers shortstop Javier Báez while serving as the Cubs’ third-base coach from 2014-17, he managed Hinch while leading Triple-A Edmonton to back-to-back Pacific Coast League titles in 1996 and ’97. Hinch, a catching prospect in the A’s system back then, batted .376 with a 1.001 OPS over 39 games with Jones in ’97.
Jones returns to the big leagues after managing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in the Phillies’ farm system the last four years. He was the International League Manager of the Year in 2018, one of the five Manager of the Year Awards he has won over 18 seasons.