The Detroit Tigers are nearly three weeks into their offseason.
A lot is happening behind the scenes. This weekend, the Tigers informed senior director of medical services Kevin Rand, who spent 20 years with the organization, that his contract would not be renewed for the 2023 season, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Head athletic trainer Doug Teter, whose contract isn’t expiring, is transitioning to a role in Lakeland and will replace Rand, though his official title is undetermined.
It’s also unclear if the Tigers have a new athletic trainer.
Earlier this offseason, the Tigers fired amateur scouting director Scott Pleis. It was the first noteworthy front office move from new president of baseball operations Scott Harris, who took over day-to-day operations Oct. 6.
In 2022, the Tigers were decimated by injuries but never pinpointed a reason for their health struggles. They used 17 starting pitchers and three former top pitching prospects — Casey Mize (Tommy John surgery), Tarik Skubal (left flexor tendon surgery) and Matt Manning (right forearm strain) — ended the season on the 60-day injured list. At the MLB level, strength and conditioning coordinator Steve Chase will not return next season, sources said.
After the season, manager A.J. Hinch inferred the issue was less about the people working around the players and more about the organization’s process. The next week, the Tigers posted a job seeking a biomechanist to assist with the delivery of performance science solutions and work closely with the analytics, player development, strength and conditioning, sports medicine and coaching departments.
“I don’t think the injuries can be associated with the strengths and weaknesses of our medical department or strength department,” Hinch said Oct. 7. “It was a really rough year, and those guys worked tirelessly. They were dealing with something every single day of the season.
“So we’re going to look at our processes behind our coaching decisions. We’re going to look at our processes and see where we can get better, what we do well, what we do below average and try to address all of that.”
Hinch also said the medical departments in Lakeland and Detroit must be synced to achieve organizational success.
“It needs to be very much tied together,” Hinch said. “Lakeland became overwhelmed (with players). Quite honestly, I think it exposed that we can probably enhance that department. I think it’s something the organization needs to look into, both in size and strength of our overall program. But it needs to be linked completely together. How we handle our medical process has to be unilateral across the organization.”
Rand joined the Tigers as the club’s head athletic trainer in October 2002, after serving as the assistant athletic trainer for the Montreal Expos in 2002 and the Florida Marlins in the 1993-2001 seasons. The head athletic trainer is responsible for the day-to-day efforts of the major league athletic training department.
In November 2017, Rand was promoted to senior director of medical services to oversee the entire organization’s athletic training from the spring training complex in Lakeland, Florida. When that happened, Teter took over as the head athletic trainer.
The Tigers hired Teter in 1993 as a trainer in the minor leagues. By the late ’90s, he was the Tigers’ rehabilitation coordinator. He then worked as the minor league medical coordinator before joining the major league staff in 2006.
Teter, who earned degrees in sports medicine at Central Michigan and Alabama, has spent 30 seasons in the Tigers’ organization. In 2006, Rand and Teter were honored by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainer’s Society as members of the Athletic Training Staff of the Year.
Rand has spent 41 seasons in professional baseball.