Erickson to manage Timber Rattlers for 9th straight season

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers manager Matt Erickson (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Matt Erickson will return for a ninth straight season as manager of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Milwaukee Brewers announced Thursday.

The Appleton native has been with the team since 2009, serving as hitting coach for two years before becoming manager in 2011. He led the Timber Rattlers to the Midwest League title in 2012, and brought them back to the playoffs in 2014 and 2016.

As a player, Erickson primarily was an infielder during his 11 seasons in the minor leagues. He appeared in four major-league games for the 2004 Brewers, with his only MLB hit coming off Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux. He played in the Midwest League in 1998, batting .324 with 4 HR, 64 RBI and 17 SB in 124 games with the Kane County Cougars.

Erickson will have new hitting and pitching coaches on his staff this year.

A former Cougars manager, Dave Joppie, is the new hitting coach. He managed and coached in the Oakland A’s organization from 1995 to 2005, a tenure that included being Kane County’s skipper in 2004 and 2005. He served as a hitting coach in the Boston Red Sox organization from 2006 to 2016, and has been a hitting coach in the Brewers farm system since 2017.

Former major-leaguer Jim Henderson is the new pitching coach. His MLB career included parts of three seasons with the Brewers (2012-14) and one season with the New York Mets (2016). His minor-league career included time with the Timber Rattlers, for whom he posted a 1.07 ERA, 17 saves and 26 strikeouts in 26 relief appearances (25.1 IP) for the 2009 team. He was a Midwest League All-Star that year.

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Posted in 2012 Playoffs, 2014 Playoffs, 2016 Playoffs, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Astros announce River Bandits coaching staff

Modern Woodmen Park, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Quad Cities River Bandits will have a new manager for the upcoming season, the Houston Astros announced Thursday.

QC’s new skipper is Ray Hernandez, who was the development coach for Houston’s Triple-A affiliate last year. He was the pitching coach for Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, Calif., from 2015 to 2017, and additionally coached one season at Elk Grove High School. A former pitcher, Hernandez played two seasons in the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system (2011-12).

QC’s new pitching coach is Erick Abreu, who enters his sixth season as a coach in the Astros organization. Last year he was the pitching coach for the Tri-City ValleyCats, who won the New York-Penn League championship. The Dominican Republic native pitched professionally for 12 seasons, including five years in the Astros farm system and five years in the New York Yankees organization.

Rafael Pena returns to the River Bandits staff in his first season as a hitting coach; he served as QC’s development coach last year. A native of the Dominican Republic, Pena played infield in college before serving as an assistant coach at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in 2016 and 2017. Last year was his first with the Astros organization.

Ex-QC broadcaster joins Reds

Former River Bandits broadcaster Tommy Thrall has been added to the Cincinnati Reds radio broadcast team.

Thrall did play-by-play for the River Bandits in 2010 and 2011 before performing that same task for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Cincinnati’s Double-A affiliate) from 2012 to 2018.

Posted in Midwest League, New York-Penn League, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Quad Cities River Bandits, Southern League, Tri-City ValleyCats | Leave a comment

Two former Captains added to Lake County coaching staff

Luke Carlin will return as manager of the Lake County Captains this coming season, with three new coaches at his side, including two former Captains players.

This will be Carlin’s second season at the helm of the Captains, after leading them to a 60-79 overall record last year. A former major-league catcher, Carlin played professionally for 14 years, appeared in 56 MLB games (for the San Diego Padres, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Cleveland Indians), and played 44 games in the Midwest League (with the 2003-04 Fort Wayne Wizards).

His coaching staff includes pitching coach Owen Dew, bench coach Jordan Smith, and hitting coach Jason Esposito.

Dew enters his third season as a pitching coach in the Indians organization, after serving in that role for the AZL Indians last year and the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers in 2017. His Scrappers staff ranked second in the New York-Penn League with a 2.92 ERA, and ranked sixth in strikeouts. He pitched professionally from 2010 to 2013, a tenure that included 15 regular-season appearances for the 2010-11 Captains. He was part of the Captains team that won the franchise’s only Midwest League championship, in 2010.

Smith also is a former Captains player, having suited up for the team during the 2012 season. (He batted .316 with 39 extra-base hits and 74 RBI in 116 games.) The former outfielder played professionally from 2011 to 2018, and now enters his first season as a coach.

Esposito enters his second year as a professional coach, after serving as the hitting coach for the AZL Indians last season. A former third baseman, he played four seasons (2012-15)in the Baltimore Orioles farm system, reaching Double-A in his final season.

Posted in 2010 Playoffs, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Lake County Captains, Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Midwest League, New York-Penn League | Leave a comment

Mariners acquire ex-Dragons infielder in 3-team trade

New Seattle Mariners prospect Shed Long played second base for the Dayton Dragons in 2015 and 2016. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Seattle Mariners acquired former Dayton Dragons infielder Shed Long in a three-team trade also involving the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees.

In addition to the Mariners getting Long, the Reds received major-league RHP Sonny Gray and minor-league LHP Reiver Sanmartin, and the Yankees got speedy minor-league outfielder Josh Stowers and a competitive balance round draft pick. Long is the only one of those players who is a former Midwest Leaguer.

Primarily a second baseman, Long played 136 games with the Dragons in 2015 and 2016, cumulatively batting .281 with 17 homers, 31 doubles, 61 runs batted in, and 18 stolen bases. He spent the 2018 season in Double-A, where he batted .261 with 12 homers, 22 doubles, 56 RBI and 19 stolen bases in 126 games with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

Posted in Dayton Dragons, Midwest League, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Southern League | Leave a comment

Former Hot Rods manager returns to skipper BG again

Reinaldo Ruiz will return for a fourth year as manager of the Bowling Green Hot Rods this coming season. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

A former Hot Rods skipper will return to Bowling Green this year to manage the team again.

Reinaldo Ruiz will manage the Hot Rods after serving as skipper of the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs last year. The Stone Crabs went 74-62, which is the second-best record in the team’s history.

Last year’s Hot Rods manager, Craig Albernaz, is moving into a role as a minor-league coordinator in the Tampa Bay Rays organization after leading Bowling Green to its first Midwest League championship title in 2018.

Ruiz previously managed the Hot Rods from 2015 to 2017, and was originally assigned to Bowling Green again last year before being moved up to Charlotte in late March after the previously-announced Stone Crabs manager took a medical leave of absence. Ruiz, now in his 10th season as a minor-league Rays coach, guided the Hot Rods to playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016.

The rest of Bowling Green’s coaching staff are returnees from last year’s championship team.

Brian Reith, a former Cincinnati Reds pitcher, begins his second season as pitching coach for the Hot Rods. The Fort Wayne native played professional baseball for 13 years, and made five starts for the Dayton Dragons in 2000. He went 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA, 30 strikeouts and eight walks in 34.1 Midwest League innings.

This will be Manny Castillo’s seventh season as a Hot Rods coach (2010-13, 2016 and 2018). Castillo played professional baseball for 16 years, including the 1975 season in the Midwest League. (He batted .325 with 1 HR and 34 RBI in 68 games with the Wausau Mets.) He also played in 236 major-league games, mostly with the 1982-83 Seattle Mariners.

This will be Jeremy Owens’ second season as a coach for the Hot Rods. His playing career included 129 games with the 1999 Fort Wayne Wizards, for whom he batted .281 with 9 HR, 66 RBI and 65 SB.

Posted in 2018 Playoffs, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Charlotte Stone Crabs, Dayton Dragons, Florida State League, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League | Leave a comment