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Rays’ minor-league staffs have a major new look

The extensive makeover includes six new hires (including a female athletic trainer) and 16 internal changes in assignment.
The Seattle Mariners' Chris Prieto now is part of the Tampa Bay Rays' staff.
The Seattle Mariners' Chris Prieto now is part of the Tampa Bay Rays' staff. [ LESLIE PLAZA JOHNSON | ZUMAPRESS.com ]
Published Jan. 27, 2020|Updated Jan. 28, 2020

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

External hires

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

Internal promotions

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

Manager changes

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

External hires

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.

Internal moves

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

Coordinators

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

Triple-A Durham

Manager: Brady Williams

Pitching coach: Rick Knapp

Coach: Kyle Wilson, Quinton McCracken

Athletic trainer: Scott Thurston

Conditioning coach: Bryan King

Double-A Montgomery

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

Rookie-level Princeton

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

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