Vizquel to be part of Tigers coaching staff
Former shortstop to be first-base, baserunning and infield coach
DETROIT -- When the Tigers acquired Jose Iglesias in July to be their shortstop, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski cited scouts comparing him defensively to the great Omar Vizquel. Now, Iglesias will have the chance to learn from the man himself.
The Tigers officially filled out the remaining major openings on their coaching staff on Monday, including Vizquel, who will serve as the first-base, infield and baserunning coach under first-time manager Brad Ausmus.
The Tigers also named longtime Major League first baseman Wally Joyner as their hitting coach, Mick Billmeyer as their bullpen coach and Matt Martin to fill a new post as the team's defensive coordinator. Team officials will continue to look for a second hitting coach.
Ausmus' first season as a manager will feature help from a staff that features extensive coaching experience with Gene Lamont, Jeff Jones, Dave Clark and Billmeyer, while adding guys with accomplished Major League playing careers.
"There is a lot of baseball and coaching experience in this group that is committed to the details of winning baseball games," Ausmus said in a statement.
None has the Major League resume to compare with Vizquel, ranked by many as one of the greatest shortstops in Major League history. He's expected to bring that work ethic to his first big league coaching position.
Vizquel played 24 years in the Majors before retiring in 2012 at age 45. In those 24 seasons, he won 11 Gold Gloves and earned three All-Star selections. He played more games at shortstop than anyone in Major League history, and his .985 fielding percentage there ranks second all-time, according to baseball-reference.
From a Venezuelan standpoint, the hiring brings a familiar face for the many Venezuelan players on the Tigers roster, including Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Anibal Sanchez. From an infield instruction standpoint, the move is a boon for Iglesias, who will take over as Detroit's full-time shortstop next season.
"It was certainly a consideration," Ausmus said of the chance to have Vizquel mentor Iglesias, "but not the reason for his hiring. His enthusiasm and knowledge were much more important factors."
The 46-year-old Vizquel spent this past season as a roving infield instructor in the Angels organization. When the Angels hired him, manager Mike Scioscia reportedly said he had no doubt that Vizquel had the potential to manage in the big leagues one day.
Vizquel also was an underrated baserunner, stealing 404 bases in his career. He also was caught 167 times, but there was aggressiveness to his game on the bases that could benefit the Tigers.
Joyner's move had been reported Sunday, when he stepped down as assistant hitting coach with the Phillies. Working alongside Philadelphia hitting coach Steve Henderson, Joyner received a good share of credit in Philly for the emergence of Domonic Brown, who grew from perennial prospect status to legitimate Major League hitter in 2013. Brown hit .272 with 27 home runs and 83 RBIs.
"It was the positivity of his approach that was most impressive, and most important," Ausmus said.
Joyner has been in the top job before, serving as Padres hitting coach from July 2007 to September 2008. After stepping down from the job, he spent four years as the lead hitting instructor for Major League Baseball's international elite-level development programs, coaching players in Italy, Brazil and the Netherlands.
Ausmus didn't join the front office in San Diego until after Joyner left, but they were teammates with the Padres in 1996. Joyner's playing career was his claim to fame, including a 22-homer, 100-RBI rookie season with the Angels in 1986.
For his 16-year Major League career, Joyner batted .289 with 204 home runs and 1,106 RBIs.
Billmeyer spent four seasons as Philadelphia's bullpen coach before becoming a catching coach this past season. He was the club's catching instructor for five years before that. As bullpen coaches go, he has a fairly extensive resume.
The defensive coordinator position is the brainchild of Ausmus, who wanted a central voice for all the club's efforts in the field.
"It's very important to me that the infield defense, outfield defense and pitching are on the same page," Ausmus said. "Matt will be a big part of that coordination, in addition to assisting Omar with infield, baserunning and bunting."
As an extra coach, Martin won't be in the dugout calling alignments. He will, however, be part of the pregame work. More importantly, he'll be coordinating the advance scouting information the Tigers receive -- some of it from video, some from other sources.
"Brad Ausmus had talked about how he'd like to have somebody help him with doing this," Dombrowski said. "We felt defensive coordinator was an appropriate title. He can help us on the field before games, but his main thing is going to be coordinating."
Most of Martin's recent work has been on defense, having been an infield instructor since 2007 in the Dodgers and Orioles organizations. He spent six years in the Tigers organization as a hitting coach, manager and roving instructor from 1998-2003.