Former MLB catcher to manage Captains in 2018

Former catcher Luke Carlin, seen here with Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber during a 2014 spring training game, will manage the Lake County Captains in 2018. (Photo by Mark Duncan/Associated Press)

Former major-league catcher Luke Carlin will manage the Lake County Captains this coming season, the team announced Wednesday.

This will be Carlin’s third season coaching in the Cleveland Indians organization, after he managed the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers to a 44-29 overall record and a playoff berth last year, and was on the coaching staff of the Double-A Akron RubberDucks in 2016.

Carlin played professionally for 14 years, from 2002 to 2015. He played in 56 MLB games, for the San Diego Padres, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Indians. He also played in the Midwest League, batting .221 with 16 RBI in 44 games with the 2003-04 Fort Wayne Wizards.*

Joe Torres is the new Captains pitching coach, after he served in that same role for Cleveland’s Arizona League team last year. The southpaw pitched professionally from 2000 to 2013. As an Angels farmhand, he appeared in 49 games with the Cedar Rapids Kernels (four in 2001, 25 in 2002, and 20 in 2005). In his only full season in the Midwest League, Torres went 11-8 with a 3.52 ERA, 87 strikeouts and 66 walks in 133 innings/25 starts.

Pete Lauritson is Lake County’s new hitting coach. He served in that same role for Mahoning Valley in 2017, and was an assistant coach for his alma mater, the Iowa Hawkeyes, in 2016.

Kyle Hudson will be the new Captains bench coach this year, after making his professional coaching debut as a bench coach for the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats in 2017, and serving as an assistant coach for his alma mater, the University of Illinois, in 2016. The former outfielder played professionally from 2008 to 2015, and appeared in 14 MLB games with the Baltimore Orioles in 2011.

*A couple names popped out at me as I scanned the roster of the 2004 Wizards. Future MLB pitcher and author Dirk Hayhurst went 9-4 with a 2.66 ERA, 106 strikeouts and 19 walks in 118.1 innings (26 games/17 starts) for Fort Wayne. The team’s first baseman was Fernando Valenzuela Jr. (son of former Los Angeles Dodgers pitching great Fernando Valenzuela), who led the Wizards with 148 hits while batting .295 with 11 HR and 81 RBI in 135 games. He did not reach the major leagues.

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Posted in Akron Aeros, Carolina League, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Eastern League, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Lake County Captains, Lynchburg Hillcats, Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Midwest League, New York-Penn League | Leave a comment

Dayton Dragons announce 2018 coaching staff

The Dayton Dragons, Midwest League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, announced its 2018 coaching staff Tuesday.

Luis Bolivar is returning for a second season as Dayton’s manager, with two of his three coaches from last year also coming back. In his first year at the team’s helm, Bolivar led the Dragons to a 71-69 overall record in the regular season; Dayton went 41-29 in the first half, earning the team a playoff berth that took them within a game of the Midwest League Championship Series. Bolivar previously was the team’s hitting coach (2014-16), and he played for the Dragons in 2003 and 2004. (He batted .233 with 13 HR, 66 RBI and 37 SB in 180 MWL games.)

Hitting coach Daryle Ward and bench coach Kevin Mahar also are returning to the Dragons, for second seasons in their respective roles. (You can read more about them here.)

New pitching coach Seth Etherton served in the same capacity for the Billings Mustangs (the Reds’ affiliate in the short-season Pioneer League) the past two seasons. His 14-year playing career included 23 MLB starts and a one-inning rehab appearance with the Dragons (in 2002).

Posted in 2017 Playoffs, Billings Mustangs, Dayton Dragons, Midwest League, Pioneer League | Leave a comment

Astros trade four ex-QC players for Gerrit Cole

Pitcher Gerrit Cole, seen here in a 2014 rehab start with the Indianapolis Indians, was traded to the Houston Astros on Saturday. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Houston Astros acquired pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday, parting with four former Quad Cities River Bandits to get the right-handed hurler.

The Pirates received three players with major-league experience — third baseman Colin Moran, RHP Joe Musgrove and RHP Michael Feliz — and prospect Jason Martin, an outfielder who finished the 2017 season in Double-A.

Moran is the most recent player to suit up for the River Bandits. He didn’t play in the Midwest League when he was assigned to Class A in 2013 because he was a Miami Marlins prospect at that time. (The Marlins haven’t had a MWL team since they were affiliated with the Kane County Cougars from 1993 to 2002.) However, after suffering a facial fracture from a foul ball off his own bat last July, he rehabbed with the River Bandits for three games at the end of the regular MWL season and throughout the 2017 MWL playoffs. (The River Bandits won the MWL title, so Moran presumably is getting a MWL championship ring, too.) Overall he played in 82 regular-season games last year, mostly in Triple-A; he batted .301 with 18 HR and 65 RBI.

(Fun fact about Moran: He is the nephew of former major-leaguers B.J. and Rich Surhoff. B.J. Surhoff, who played 19 seasons in the big leagues, started his pro career in the Midwest League. He batted .332 with 7 HR and 58 RBI in 76 games with the 1985 Beloit Brewers.)

Colin Moran, seen here during Game 1 of the 2017 Midwest League Championship Series, rehabbed with the Quad Cities River Bandits last year. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Musgrove appeared in five games (three starts) for the 2015 River Bandits. He went 4-1 with a 0.70 ERA, 23 strikeouts and one walk in 25.2 innings. He went 7-8 with a 4.77 ERA, two saves, 98 strikeouts and 28 walks in 109.1 innings (38 games/15 starts) for the Astros last year.

Feliz spent the 2014 season in the Midwest League, going 8-6 with a 4.03 ERA, 111 strikeouts and 37 walks in 102.2 innings (25 games/19 starts) for the River Bandits. He also made a one-inning rehab start for Quad Cities last year, striking out two batters in a 1-2-3 frame. He went 4-2 with a 5.63 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 22 walks in 48 innings (46 games) for the Astros last year.

Martin played with the River Bandits in 2015, batting .270 with 8 HR, 57 RBI and 14 SB in 105 games. He split the 2017 season between High-A and Double-A, cumulatively batting .278 with 18 HR, 66 RBI and 16 SB in 125 games.

Jason Martin bats for the Quad Cities River Bandits during a 2015 game. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Cole went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA, 196 strikeouts and 55 walks in 203 innings/33 starts for the Pirates last year. The five-year MLB veteran had his best season in 2015, when he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA, 202 strikeouts and 44 walks in 208 innings/32 starts for Pittsburgh. He was an All-Star and finished fourth in voting for the National League Cy Young Award that year.

Posted in 2017 Playoffs, Beloit Snappers, Indianapolis Indians, International League, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Padres announce 2018 TinCaps coaching staff

Burt Hooton (left) and Anthony Contreras will be back this year as the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ pitching coach and manager, respectively. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The 2018 Fort Wayne TinCaps coaching staff will have a familiar look to it, as only one member is a newcomer to the Midwest League’s Summit City franchise.

Anthony Contreras returns as manager for a third season, after leading the TinCaps to the Midwest League Championship Series last year. They lost to the Quad Cities River Bandits, but the team’s turnaround on the way there was impressive. At least partially because of an abundance of player injuries and inexperience (they had the youngest roster in the league), the TinCaps posted a dismal 26-44 record in the first half, but they rebounded to finish strong with a 42-28 record in the second half to earn a postseason berth.

Former MLB hurler Burt Hooton also is returning to the TinCaps, for his sixth season as the team’s pitching coach. He has more than 20 years of experience as a minor-league pitching coach, and served as the Houston Astros’ major-league pitching coach from 2000 to 2004. Under his guidance last year, TinCaps pitchers set a new MWL record for strikeouts in a season (1,307).

Also returning to the coaching staff is Jhonny Carvajal, who is Fort Wayne’s fielding coach. It is his second year with the TinCaps.

The new addition to the coaching staff is Jonathan Mathews, who will serve as the team’s hitting coach. This is his first year with the San Diego Padres organization, but he previously coached in the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system. He has been a Midwest League hitting coach twice before, for the 2014 South Bend Silver Hawks and the 2016 Kane County Cougars.

Posted in 2017 Playoffs, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment

Tigers announce rest of Whitecaps coaching staff

Pitching coach Jorge Cordova is the only returning member from last year’s West Michigan Whitecaps coaching staff. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

After previously announcing that former MLB catcher Lance Parrish will manage the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2018, the Detroit Tigers revealed Thursday who will be on his coaching staff.

Two of the additional coaches are former major-leaguers, and the third one pitched in the Midwest League.

Pitching coach Jorge Cordova is the only returning member of the Whitecaps coaching staff. It will be his second season with the Whitecaps. His six-year playing career in the minors included 42 games in the Midwest League, for the 1999-2000 Kane County Cougars and the 2000 Clinton LumberKings. His cumulative MWL record was 10-9 with a 3.59 ERA, 161 strikeouts and 59 walks in 163 innings.

West Michigan’s new hitting coach is Mariano Duncan, who played 12 years in the major leagues. He coached in the Chicago Cubs farm system during the last seven seasons, and was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ MLB first-base coach for five years before that.

Former major-leaguer John Vander Wal also is assigned to West Michigan’s coaching staff. During his 14-year MLB career, the outfielder/first baseman earned a reputation as a go-to player in pinch-hitting situations.

Posted in Clinton LumberKings, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment