Indians Player Development System Full of Familiar Names, Faces

The roster is taking shape, the Major League positions are being filled, and now the Indians have assigned names to their player development roles throughout the organization. It’s one of the finishing winter steps and brings the organization that much closer to the start of the 2015 season.

This upcoming season, the Indians minor league and player development roles are filled by well-known names from the organization, including former Tribe players and managers from years past.

Shaun Larkin played in the Indians organization from 2002 to 2007 and was an All-Star third baseman with the Lake County Captains during their first season in 2003, where he returns this year as skipper of the team after serving as the Captains’ hitting coach last season. Larkin is joined by Steve Karsay as pitching coach, who served the same role for the Captains in 2013 and worked with the Carolina Mudcats last year in North Carolina. The Captains also welcome back Matthew Beauregard as the team’s athletic trainer and Paul Synenkyj as strength and conditioning coach. The Indians have not yet named a hitting coach for the 2015 squad.

2015 will be the inaugural season for the Indians new high-A affiliate in Virginia, the Lynchburg Hillcats, who will be managed by Mark Budzinski. This will be Budzinski’s second season with the Indians, as he lead the Captains into the Midwest League playoffs during his first season in 2014. Budzinski will be joined in Lynchburg by pitching coach Tony Arnold and a yet-to-be-named hitting coach.

David Wallace will again take the reins for the Akron RubberDucks, with Tony Mansolino joining as hitting coach and Jeff Harris as their pitching coach. Chris Tremie leads the Columbus Clippers once again with the help of Rouglas Odor and Chris Willis as hitting coach and pitching coach, respectively. Tremie led the Clippers to a 79-65 record last season, while Wallace took the RubberDucks to 73-69 in 2014. Willis, who had been with the Indians since 1997, was a member of the Indians Major League pitching staff from 2003 to 2009 prior to joining the Mariners organization as their pitching coach from 2010 to 2013. Willis rejoined the Tribe last season as special assistant to baseball operations.

Jim Rickon, who spent last season as the AAA hitting coach, has been promoted to the organizational hitting coordinator. Rickon is a Cleveland State alum and played in the organization from 1999 to 2001, and has been with the organization in a hitting coach capacity since 2002.

Scooter Tucker, who manned the Mudcats last season in Zebulon, is staying with the organization in a new capacity, taking on the role of catching coordinator in the Player Development System. Tucker played for Cleveland and Houston from 1992 to 1995 and appeared in 51 Major League games. In his new role, Tucker will be managing the organization’s catchers throughout the season.

Another internal promotion comes in the form of Eric Binder, who is now the assistant director of player development after having joined the organization in 2013 as a Baseball Operations intern. Binder attended and instructed at the Texas Baseball Ranch, which Trevor Bauer praises for its role in his baseball development. In his new role, Binder will assist in the design and creation of the player development staff’s programs, policies, and curriculums. He will be working under Carter Hawkins, who will be in his first year as director of player development.

Perhaps the most talked-about and intriguing changes this season comes from the short season Mahoning Valley Scrappers changes after the departure of Ted Kubiak, a mainstay in the Indians organizational structure. Despite the questionable nature of Kubiak’s departure, his replacement in Mahoning Valley is to be celebrated by Tribe fans. Travis Fryman, a 13-year Major League veteran and five-time American League All-Star (which includes four All-Star appearances with the Tigers and one with the Indians in 2000), will return to a managerial position with the Scrappers. Fryman led the Scrappers from 2008 to 2010 and has spent the last four seasons as a special assistant and infield coordinator for the organization.

Fryman will be joined by Larry Day as hitting coach and Greg Hibbard as pitching coordinator in Mahoning Valley. Day served as the assistant coach for Ohio University’s baseball team in 2014 and was the assistant coach at Mansolino’s alma mater, Vanderbilt University, from 2009 to 2013. Day played with the New York Yankees organization in 2007 to 2008.

Photo: Joshua Gunter/The Plain Dealer

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