SAN DIEGO — The Detroit Tigers‘ coaching staff is nearly complete.
Gary Jones, who served as the first base coach last season, will be the third base coach in 2023, manager A.J. Hinch said Monday at baseball’s winter meetings. In doing so, Jones returns to the role he previously held as a coach with the Chicago Cubs.
There is one open spot remaining on the staff.
“We have built a staff that’s going to focus on competing to win that day’s game and also competing to deliver ways to get players better,” Hinch said. “If you are in our system, it’s continuous how we blend the minor leagues and the major leagues. If you’re coming from external, you’re going to come to us because you feel like we can make you better and your career better.”
The Tigers also completed the reconstruction of their strength and conditioning department. Nelson Perez, who previously worked for the Cleveland Guardians, is the new strength and conditioning coach.
Shane Wallen has been hired as the performance coach. He previously worked for the Cubs, San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns.
Matt Rankin and Chris McDonald are returning as assistant trainers under new head athletic trainer Ryne Eubanks. Rankin and McDonald have been with the Tigers for more than 20 seasons.
Here’s a look at the Tigers’ coaching staff: manager A.J. Hinch, bench coach George Lombard, pitching coach Chris Fetter, assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves, assistant pitching coach Robin Lund, hitting coach Michael Brdar, hitting coach Keith Beauregard, assistant hitting coach James Rowson, first base coach Alfredo Amézaga and third base coach Gary Jones.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED: Recapping roster moves from Tigers boss Scott Harris so far this offseason
Harris praised Hinch for building “a very diverse staff” to help all types of players feel comfortable. The Tigers hope to connect with every player on the roster, from 22-year-old Riley Greene to 39-year-old Miguel Cabrera, and aid them in their career-long developments.
“Some of them are going to be mechanical, some of them are going to be data-driven, some of them are going to be feel, some are video-oriented,” Hinch said. “Some communicate via text, some communicate via face-to-face. All that in-season is going to be ironed out with the experiences that the new staff brings in and the feedback from the coaches that have been here on how players have responded in the two years that we’ve been here.”
• Right-hander Alex Faedo (right hip injury) continues to work on hip range of motion, strength and balance. He is symptom free, throwing at 90 feet and expected to be ready for spring training.
• Right-hander Joe Jiménez (right lumbar spine strain) continues to focus on improving his lumbar and core flexibility and strength. He is symptom free, throwing at 90 feet and expected to be ready for spring training.
• Catcher Jake Rogers (right elbow sprain) is performing his normal offseason strength and conditioning program. He is throwing at 105 feet. The Tigers expect him to be ready for spring training. Rogers underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2021 and did not play in the 2022 season.
“I think they complement each other well,” Harris said of Rogers and fellow catcher Eric Haase. “I’m just pleased that Jake is going to be healthy and we can see those two work together in Lakeland in two months.”
A potential return?
The Tigers plan to have conversations with right-handed reliever Kyle Funkhouser about returning to the organization. Funkhouser, selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, was designated for assignment in November and elected free agency. He is recovering from shoulder surgery in July 2022 and would likely be a candidate to receive a minor-league contract.
Reacting to Candy
After being non-tendered in November, former Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Nationals. The 29-year-old hit .217 with 13 home runs, 28 walks and 109 strikeouts in 124 games last season.
Dave Martinez, the Nationals’ manager, told reporters Monday adding Candelario was a “no-brainer” for the organization.
“He made a really big impression in this organization,” Harris said. “I asked a lot of people about him and heard nothing but positive things. Unfortunately, he struggled a little bit last year, and due to the nature of our situation, it was a very difficult situation for us at the tender deadline. … He seems like he’s in a position now where he can get plenty of at-bats and try to recapture the player he was a couple years ago. We wish him nothing but the best. He’s a great person, and he has a lot of fans in the Tigers organization.”
The 2022 Rule 5 draft takes place Wednesday at the winter meetings. The draft allows teams without a full 40-man roster to select certain non-40-man roster players from other organizations. If a player is selected, he immediately joins the active 26-man roster.
The Tigers have an open roster spot, but Harris has not decided whether the club will make a selection.
“We haven’t had those discussions yet,” Harris said. “We’ve been tied up with a bunch of other stuff.”
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