The Rays implemented an extensive makeover of their minor-league coaching and training personnel that resulted in completely new coaching staffs for three affiliates — Class A Bowling Green, short-season Class A Hudson Valley and rookie-level Princeton.
Overall, the Rays hired six new coaches (three at the coordinator level) from outside the organization, shuffled managers at their four lower-level affiliates, and changed 12 coaching assignments. The Rays also hired two new athletic trainers (Halee Williams, who had been with the A’s), changed assignments for two conditioning coaches and hired four mental performance coaches, a significant expansion of that department.
Williams will be the first woman in on-field role with the Rays, working primarily with minor-league players rehabbing injuries at the Port Charlotte complex.
“We interviewed several people and she’s extremely bright, highly qualified and highly talented,’’ Rays VP Carlos Rodriguez said. “A lot of her values and principles align with who we are, and we’re excited to have her here.’’
Two of the four mental performance “practitioners,” as Rodriguez called them, are also female — Jenny Garcia and Carla Hodel.
Rodriguez, who added player development to his responsibilities in September, said they didn’t set out to remake what is considered one of the game’s best farms systems. But conversations about keeping the team ahead of changes in the game and individual coaches fresh while assembling balanced and diverse staffs and putting information-hungry players in the best situations led to the moves.
“If we don’t do this now we’re going to be looking up in a few years saying we’re not in a good spot,’’ he said. “We’re very much the Rays, and we have to continue to evolve and try to get in front of things, and that’s kind of what we’ve done.’’
The new coach hires include three at the coordinator level: Chris Prieto, who had been on the Mariners major-league coaching staff, and college coaches Greg Brown (Nova Southeastern) and Rolando Garza (Pepperdine). The others are Kyle Wilson (Triple-A Durham, hitting), Frank Jagoda (Princeton), Frank Maldonado (Gulf Coast League, hitting).
Managers for the top three affiliates remained the same, Brady Williams at Triple-A Durham, Morgan Ensberg at Double-A Montgomery, Jeff Smith at advanced Class A Charlotte.
But Blake Butera moved to Bowling Green, Rafael Valenzuela to Hudson Valley and Reinaldo Ruiz to the Gulf Coast League. Sean Smedley will manage for the first time at Princeton.
Most of the moves were the result of staff shuffling and the new hires; only two coaches from last year were not retained, Danny Sheaffer, who managed at Princeton, and Dominican Summer League field coordinator Arturo De Freites. Two coordinators left on their own, Craig Albernaz hired to the Giants major-league staff and Steve Henderson retired.
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Rodriguez said expanding the mental performance department was another sign of the times as teams now work more with players with on overall life skills. “We really want to be a more robust group to help them navigate the ups and downs they are going to go through in their careers,’’ he said.
Here is a look at moves, and the new alignments:
Field coordinator changes
Pitching: Rolando Garza, was pitching coach at Pepperdine
Hitting: Greg Brown, was head coach at Nova Southeastern
Outfield/baserunning: Chris Prieto, was third-base coach with Mariners
Field: Alejandro Freire, from coach at short-season Class A Hudson Valley
Hitting: Dan Dement, from coach at Triple A Durham
Infield: Ivan Ochoa, from coach at Class A Charlotte
Blake Butera, to Class A Bowling Green from short-season Class A Hudson Valley
Rafael Valenzuela, to Hudson Valley from rookie-level GCL Rays
Sean Smedley, to rookie-level Princeton (W.Va.) from Hudson Valley coach
Reinaldo Ruiz, to rookie-level GCL from Bowling Green
Coaching/medical staff changes
Durham hitting coach: Kyle Wilson, was with Mariners Double-A team
Princeton coach: Frank Jagoda, with with Twins Class A team
GCL Rays hitting coach: Frank Maldonado, was head coach at Greensboro (N.C.) College
GCL Rays rehab athletic trainer: Halee Williams, worked part-time in A’s organization
Dominican Summer League athletic trainer: Oscar Orengo, was with DSL Padres (won Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society DSL Athletic Trainer of the Year award)
Also hired: Alex Roth, minor league dietitian; Jenny Garcia, Carla Hodel, Josh Kozuchand, Kris Goodman, mental performance coaches.
Skeeter Barnes, to Bowling Green coach from outfield/baserunning coordinator
Alberto Bastardo, to Princeton pitching coach from GCL Rays
Manny Castillo, to Princeton hitting coach from Bowling Green
Jose Gonzalez, to GCL Rays pitching coach from Hudson Valley
R.C. Lichtenstein, to Hudson Valley pitching coach from Montgomery
German Melendez, to Hudson Valley coach from Princeton
Brady North, to Charlotte hitting coach from GCL Rays
Jeremy Owens, to Charlotte coach from Bowling Green
Jim Paduch, to Bowling Green pitching coach from Princeton
Brian Reith, to Double-A Montgomery pitching coach from Bowling Green
Wuarnner Rincones, to Bowling Green hitting coach from Princeton
Joe Szekely, to Hudson Valley hitting coach from Charlotte
Also: James McCallie moved from conditioning coach at Bowling Green to Charlotte, and Jordan Brown from Princeton to Bowling Green.
Title changes: Dewey Robinson to director, pitching development; George Pappas to manager, minor league and international operations; Milton Jamail to advisor, player education and acculturation; Winston Doom to assistant director, pitching development. Assistant director, hitting development Cole Figueroa will see an increased on-field role.
New staff alignments
Field: Michael Johns, Alejandro Freire
Pitching: Jorge Moncada, Rolando Garza
Hitting: Steve Livesey, Dan Dement, Greg Brown
Catching: Tomas Francisco
Infield: Hector Torres, Ivan Ochoa
Outfield/baserunning: Chris Prieto
Director, pitching Development: Dewey Robinson
Assistant director, pitching Development: Winston Doom
Assistant director, hitting development: Cole Figueroa
Medical training: Aaron Scott
Rehabilitation: Joel Smith
Latin America medical: Chris Tomashoff
Latin American cultural: Jairo De La Rosa
Strength and conditioning: Patrick Trainor
Florida education: Lenore Sutton
Mental performance: James Schwabach, Jenny Garcia, Carla Hodel, Josh Kozuch, Kris Goodman
Equipment manager: Tim McKechney
Assistant equipment manager: Shane Rossetti
Manager: Brady Williams
Pitching coach: Rick Knapp
Coach: Kyle Wilson, Quinton McCracken
Athletic trainer: Scott Thurston
Conditioning coach: Bryan King
Manager: Morgan Ensberg
Pitching coach: Brian Reith
Coach: Jamie Nelson, Gary Redus
Athletic trainer: Kris Russell
Conditioning coach: Carlos Gonzalez
Advanced Class A Charlotte
Manager: Jeff Smith
Pitching coach: Steve Watson
Coach: Brady North, Jeremy Owens
Athletic trainer: James Ramsdell
Conditioning coach: James McCallie
Class A Bowling Green
Manager: Blake Butera
Pitching coach: Jim Paduch
Coach: Wuarnner Rincones, Skeeter Barnes
Athletic trainer: Brian Newman
Conditioning coach: Jordan Brown
Short-season Class A Hudson Valley
Manager: Rafael Valenzuela
Pitching coach: R.C. Lichtenstein
Coach: Joe Szekely, German Melendez
Athletic trainer: Tsutomu Kamiya
Conditioning coach: Dan Rousseau
Manager: Sean Smedley
Pitching coach: Alberto Bastardo
Coach: Manny Castillo, Frank Jagoda
Athletic trainer: Ruben Santiago
Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Rays
Manager: Reinaldo Ruiz
Pitching coach: Marty DeMerritt, Jose Gonzalez
Coach: Frank Maldonado, Jim Morrison
Athletic trainer: Peter Walukiewicz
Rehab athletic trainer: Halee Williams
Conditioning coach: Paul Jones