A familiar face will manage the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2017, but it won’t be the same skipper the team has had the past three seasons.
The Detroit Tigers announced Thursday that former Whitecaps catcher Mike Rabelo will manage West Michigan next season after five years with the short-season Connecticut Tigers (two as hitting coach and three as manager). His record as Connecticut’s manager is 118-107.
Rabelo played the 2002 and 2003 seasons in the Midwest League. In 2002 he batted .195 with 2 HR and 41 RBI in 123 games. In 2003 he batted .274 with 5 HR and 40 RBI in 123 games. He eventually made it to the majors, making his MLB debut for the Tigers in September 2006. He batted .254 in 52 games with the Tigers before being traded to the Florida Marlins as part of the package for superstar Miguel Cabrera. He batted .202 in 34 games with the 2008 Marlins.
The 2017 Whitecaps coaching staff also will include hitting coach Mike Hessman and pitching coach Jorge Cordova.
Hessman is best known as Minor League Baseball’s all-time home run leader. He hit 433 homers in 2,095 MiLB games before ending his playing career after the 2015 season. He served as hitting coach of the Connecticut Tigers this year.
Hessman did not play in the Midwest League, but Cordova did. Cordova’s six-year MiLB career included playing the 2000 season in the MWL, split between Kane County and Clinton. He went 6-7 with a 3.88 ERA, 94 strikeouts and 21 walks in 95 innings (22 games/15 starts) for the Cougars. He went 3-2 with a 4.25 ERA, 50 strikeouts and 28 walks in 48.2 innings (eight starts) for the LumberKings.
Cordova spent the past two seasons as pitching coach for the High-A Lakeland Flying Tigers.
Andrew Graham, who managed the Whitecaps the past three seasons, will take the helm of the Flying Tigers for the 2017 season. Mark Johnson, who spent seven of the last nine seasons as West Michigan’s pitching coach, will serve in that same capacity for Lakeland next year.
Graham led the Whitecaps to the Midwest League championship title in 2015. He also won a MWL championship title as a catcher with the Whitecaps in 2004.