Astros stick with successful Minors coaching staff
Organization's top six affiliates will have managers return for 2014 season
HOUSTON -- Considering the Astros had six Minor League affiliates reach the playoffs last year, it's not surprise many of the same managers and coaches will return to lead those clubs this year.
In fact, The Astros' top six Minor League affiliates will all see returning managers in 2014, led by Tony DeFrancesco at Triple-A Oklahoma City, Keith Bodie at Double-A Corpus Christi and Rodney Linares at Class A Advanced Lancaster. The Astros will bring back 44 coaches from last year.
Also returning to manage are Omar Lopez at Class A Quad Cities, Ed Romero at Short-Season Tri-City, Josh Bonifay at Rookie League Greeneville and Johan Maya in the Dominican Summer League. The only new manager is Marty Malloy, who takes over the Gulf Coast League Astros after spending last year as the team's hitting coach.
DeFrancesco returns for his fourth season as manager at Oklahoma City, his 20th season as a Minor League manager and his 30th as a player, coach or manager in professional baseball. In 2013, DeFrancesco led the RedHawks to their second consecutive winning season and their first division title since 2010.
Oklahoma City's 82 wins ranked second in club history for a single season and led the Pacific Coast League. DeFrancesco managed the Astros on an interim basis for the final 41 games of the 2012 season after being named interim manager to replace Brad Mills, going 16-25.
Steve Webber returns for his second season as the RedHawks' pitching coach, and Leon Roberts returns to Oklahoma City for his third season as hitting coach. Jeff Murphy, who was a bullpen catcher and catching instructor with the Astros in 2013, heads to Oklahoma City for his first season as catching coach.
Bodie is entering his third season as manager in Corpus Christi. In 2013, Corpus Christi won a franchise-record 83 games and captured both the first- and second-half titles in the Texas League. His staff includes pitching coach Gary Ruby, hitting coach Tim Garland and infield coach Tom Lawless.
Linares returns for his third season at the helm of the JetHawks and his eighth consecutive season as a manager in the Astros' system. He led Lancaster to a league-best 82-58 record in 2013, a year after steering the club to the 2012 California League championship.
The JetHawks will also have Don Alexander (pitching coach) and Darryl Robinson (hitting coach) returning in the same roles they held last season. Former Astros catcher (1984-88) and bullpen coach (2002-09) Mark Bailey enters his 16th year in the organization and will concentrate on coaching the club's catching prospects as catching coach.
Lopez returns to the River Bandits for his second season as manager, a year after leading the club to the Midwest League championship. This season will be Lopez's seventh consecutive year as a manager in the Astros system. Filling out Lopez's staff will be Dave Borkowski (pitching coach), Joel Chimelis (hitting coach) and Vince Coleman (outfielder/baserunning developmental specialist).
Former Astros bench coach Ed Romero returns to Tri-City after leading the club to the New York-Penn League Championship title last year. The 2014 season will be his 22nd year as a professional manager or coach. Romero's staff will consist of Chris Holt (pitching coach) and Russ Steinhorn (hitting coach).
Holt joins the Astros' organization after spending the last two season as an associate scout with the Orioles. He pitched in the Minors for Pittsburgh in 2002 after getting drafted by the club out of Flagler College that year.
In his first season as a manager at Greeneville last year, Bonifay won the Appalachian League Manager of the Year Award after leading the Astros to their second-best regular-season record in club history (38-30) and a berth in the Appalachian League championship series. His staff will be Josh Miller (pitching coach) and Cesar Cedeno (hitting coach).
Malloy takes over as manager of the GCL Astros after spending last year as hitting coach. He's joined by Hector Mercado (pitching coach), Ramon Vasquez (hitting coach) and coach Gordy MacKenzie, who's in his 14th year in the organization.
Maya's staff in the Dominican includes Rick Aponte (pitching coach), who has worked 37 years in the Astros' Minor League system. Luis Mateo returns for his sixth season as the club's hitting coach, and the instructor positions will be filled by former Astros Minor Leaguer Juan Zapata (outfield) and Sixto Ortega (catching).