Cubs

Cubs Firm Up Minor-League Staffs

Cubs Firm Up Minor-League Staffs

Thursday Dec. 16, 2010
Posted: 1 p.m.

Tennessee AA
The Smokies announced that former major leaguer Brian Harper will be the teams manager for the 2011 season. Joining Harper on next years staff will be pitching coach Marty Mason, hitting coach Mariano Duncan and athletic trainer Nick Frangella.

Harper arrives to the Smokies after leading the San Francisco Giants Class A San Jose Giants to the 2010 California League Championship. He also spent two years in the Giants organization as its roving minor league catching instructor (2008-09). Prior to this time with the Giants, he was in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheims minor league system, managing its rookie league team in the Arizona League (2001-05) and the Class AAA Salt Lake Bees (2006-07).

Harpers major league career spanned from 1979-95 and included a World Series appearance with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985 and World Series championship with Minnesota Twins in 1991. He hit .295 in 1,001 big league games and caught behind the plate for a total of seven teams.

Mason comes over from the Cardinals, where hes spent the last 25 years coaching. Prior to his most recent stint as the teams major league bullpen coach (2000-10), Mason coached in the Cardinals minor league system at Advanced-A St. Petersburg (1986-87, 1989), A-Savannah (1988), AA-Arkansas (1990-96), AAA-Louisville (1997) and AAA-Memphis (1998-99). He played in both the New York Yankees and Cardinals minor league systems from 1980-86.

Duncan has been in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization the past eight years, most recently as the teams first base coach since 2006. He also coached at AAA-Las Vegas (2005), AA-Jacksonville (2004) and for the teams rookie league team in the Gulf Coast League in 2003. Duncan is a 12-year major league veteran infielder (1985-97) and was a member of two World Series championship teams, the 1990 Cincinnati Reds and 1996 New York Yankees.

Athletic trainer Nick Frangella will return for a fourth season with the Smokies in 2011, his sixth overall in the Cubs' minor league system.

All three members of the Smokies 2010 staff will remain within the Cubs organization. Manager Bill Dancy will manage the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, while coaches Dennis Lewallyn and Tom Beyers have been promoted to minor league pitching coordinator and hitting coordinator, respectively.

Peoria A
The Peoria Chiefs announced the 2011 Chiefs field staff, which includes a pair of familiar faces. Manager Casey Kopitzke returns for a second season after leading the Chiefs to a 71-66 record in 2010. He will be joined by pitching coach Jeff Fassero, a Springfield, IL native and a former Cubs reliever, hitting coach Ricardo Medina who was with the Chiefs in 2005 and athletic trainer A.J. Larson.

We are excited to have Casey return to the Chiefs staff for 2011, said Chiefs President Rocky Vonachen. He did an outstanding job with a very young Chiefs team in 2010 and we are happy to welcome him and his family back to Central Illinois for another season. Its also exciting to have a Central Illinois native and former Cub hurler on our staff in Jeff Fassero and Ricardo Medina was a great Chiefs player in the early 1990s and was on our first staff back with the Cubs in 2005. Overall this is a great staff and we are looking forward to the start of the 2011 season.

Kopitzke, 32, has spent 12 seasons in the Cubs organization as a player, coach and manager. He led the Chiefs to a 71-66 overall record in 2010 with a third place finish in the first half. Under Kopitzkes leadership the Chiefs had the third best batting average in the Midwest League last season with a .266 mark.

This off-season he managed the Mesa Solar Sox in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Before joining the Chiefs, Kopitzke made his managerial debut in 2009 going 34-42 with the Boise Hawks of the Short Season-A Northwest League. Before managing the Hawks in 2009, Kopitzke served as the Cubs roving catching coordinator from 2007-2008 and made numerous stops in Peoria and other venues around the Midwest League to work with Chiefs catchers and hitters.

Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Kopitzke was drafted by the Cubs in the 27th round in 1999 out of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. A graduate of East DePere High School in Wisconsin, Kopitzke earned a bachelors degree in criminal justice from UW-Oshkosh in 2001. He and his wife Erin currently live in DePere, Wisconsin with a newborn son. He began his pro career as a catcher with Eugene in the Northwest League in 1999.

Kopitzke spent the 2000 season in the Midwest League with the Lansing Lugnuts hitting .224 with 22 RBI in 68 games. The following year he moved up to the Florida State League and hit .240 for Daytona. Kopitzke spent the 2002 and 2003 seasons with Double-A West Tennessee in the Southern League. In 2002 he hit .221 and in 2003 batted a career-best .261. He caught for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2004 hitting .215 with a homer and 17 RBI before going back to West Tennessee for the 2005 season. Kopitzke retired after the 2006 campaign in which he hit .239 in 30 games for Iowa.

Overall Kopitzke played in 495 Minor League games hitting .230 with two homers, 44 doubles, 122 RBI. He was known as a defensive catcher committing just 11 errors in 2,057 chances between 2002 and 2006.

Pitching coach Jeff Fassero is very familiar with Central Illinois having grown up in Springfield where he played high school and college baseball before embarking on a 16-year Major League career as a left-handed pitcher. The 37-year old is a 1981 graduate of Griffin High School in Springfield and he pitched two seasons at Lincoln Land Community College before transferring to the University of Mississippi. A 22nd round draft pick in the 1984 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, Fassero pitched in the Midwest League with his hometown Springfield Cardinals in 1985 with a 4-8 record in 29 games. After reaching Triple-A with the Cardinals, Fassero was signed by the Montreal Expos as a free agent and he made his MLB debut in 1991. Fassero pitched six seasons with Montreal, mostly as a starter going 58-48. He was traded to Seattle after the 1996 season and went 33-35 in three years as a starter for the Mariners.

After making 23 starts for Boston in 2000, Fassero signed with the Cubs for the 2001 season and made 82 bullpen appearances, a franchise record for a left-handed pitcher. He was 4-4 with a 3.42 ERA, 12 saves and 25 holds. The following season Fassero was 5-6 with a 6.18 ERA in 57 outings before he was traded in August to the St. Louis Cardinals for two players to be named later. Both players ended up being former Chiefs in Jason Karnuth and Jared Blasdell. Fassero went 1-7 in 62 outings for the Cardinals in 2003 before making 12 starts in 40 games for the Colorado Rockies in 2004. Fassero finished his 16-year career with the San Francisco Giants making 48 appearances in 2005 and 10 more in 2006.

Overall he was 121-124 with a 4.11 ERA in 720 career outings for nine different teams. Fassero made 242 starts with 17 complete games and 25 saves. In 1996 he finished ninth in the National League Cy Young Award voting after going 15-11 with a 3.30 ERA in 34 starts for the Montreal Expos. He pitched in the playoffs with Seattle in 1997, Texas in 1999 and St. Louis in 2002 with a career 1.46 ERA in the post-season. Of his six post-season appearances, one was a start, a dominating win over Baltimore in the 1997 ALDS in which he allowed just one run on three hits over eight innings. He picked up two relief wins in the 2002 NLDS against Arizona without allowing an earned run. The 2011 season makes the second as a coach for Fassero in the Cubs organization as he worked on the Boise Hawks staff last season with a team ERA of 4.43.

Ricardo Medina returns to the Chiefs for the second time as a hitting coach, having served in the same position on Julio Garcias staff in 2005. In that return to the Cubs organization in 2005, Medina worked with future Major Leaguers Sam Fuld, Eric Patterson and Lou Montanez while also helping Ryan Harvey to a 24 home-run season. A 39-year-old native of Panama, Medina signed with the Cubs in 1989 and played in Peoria as a first and third baseman from 1991 to 1993. He finished his playing career with Advanced-A Daytona in 1994 and worked as a scout for the Boston Red Sox. As a player with the Chiefs, Medina hit .302 in 1991, .263 in 1992 and .254 in 1993. He had a career .991 fielding percentage at first base and collected 27 doubles in the 1992 season with 120 hits and 67 RBI in 125 games.

Medina is in the top 20 on the Chiefs career lists in RBI, at-bats, games played, plate appearances, hits, doubles, extra-base hits, total bases and walks. For the Cubs he has worked as a hitting coach with Mesa from 1999-2003, in Boise in 2004, 2006 and 2009 and he managed the Mesa team to a 27-29 record in 2007. Medina has also worked as a coach with the Panama National Team in numerous international tournaments including Olympic qualifiers, the World Cup and the World Baseball Classic.

Iowa AAA
The Cubs announced Bill Dancy has been named manager of the Iowa Cubs for the 2011 season. Dancy ranks fourth among active Minor League Managers in wins with 1,604 total victories.

Dancy, 59, spent last season managing the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. He led Tennessee to Division titles in both the first and second half. The Smokies posted an 86-53 (.619) record, the best in the Southern League. The Florida native was also named the Double-A Southern League Manager of the Year.

Dancys managerial career began in 1979 with the Philadelphia Phillies organization at Class-A Spartanburg. He then managed at Peninsula (A, 1980-82), Reading (AA, 1983-84, 1988, 1994-95), Portland (AAA, 1985-86), Maine (AAA, 1987), ScrantonWilkes-Barre (AAA, 1989-91) and Clearwater (A, 1992-93, 1998-99). Dancy left the Phillies organization for two years to manage the Class AAA Richmond Braves (1996-97). He led Peninsula, Clearwater and Reading to league championships in 1980, 1983 and 1995 respectively, and has a 22-year minor league managerial career record of 1,604-1,467 (.522).

Dancy will be Iowas 17th manager since their affiliation with the Cubs began in 1981. He replaces Ryne Sandberg, now with the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

In 2000 Dancy left managing to become an infield coordinator for the Phillies, and then served as the teams field coordinator from 2001-2004. After two years as the Phillies third base coach (2005-06), he was the teams field coordinator in 2007 and 2008. He spent 2009 in the Kansas City Royals organization.

Joining Dancy with Iowa are returning members Pitching Coach Mike Mason, Hitting Coach Von Joshua and Athletic Trainer Matt Johnson.

Mason begins his fourth season as pitching coach of the Iowa Cubs. It is his fourth year in the Cubs organization as he served as the Kansas City Royals minor league pitching coordinator in 2007 and as their Minor League Pitching Instructor for three seasons before that.

Joshua will return to the Iowa Cubs for his sixth year as hitting coach and his ninth year with the organization. Joshua is in his 28th season as a hitting coach in professional baseball. Joshua was named the Chicago Cubs hitting coach on June 14, 2009, replacing Gerald Perry.

The curious ripple effects of the Cubs' trade for Martin Maldonado

The curious ripple effects of the Cubs' trade for Martin Maldonado

While the Cubs put the finishing touches on a lackluster loss to the Reds Monday night at Wrigley Field, the game quickly took a backseat as reports of a trade filtered through Baseball Twitter.

In came a veteran catcher — Martin Maldonado — from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Mike Montgomery, who will live on in Cubs history books forever as the guy who threw the curveball that notched the final out in the 2016 World Series to break a 108-year championship drought.

There are many layers to this move, including the corresponding aspect of Cubs All-Star catcher Willson Contreras hitting the 10-day injured list with a strain in the arch of his right foot. Contreras had an MRI Monday afternoon/evening, which revealed the issue. 

Contreras felt like he could play through it and passionately pleaded his case, but the Cubs want to exercise an abundance of caution with one of their most important players.

"Our medical staff feels like if he were to try to play on it, that he'd be risking exacerbating the injury and turning it into something long-term," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "So we have to get ahead of it, take it out of Willy's hands and take him off his feet. 

"We don't expect it to be longer than 10 days — that's what we hope for, anyways."

But even before the severity of Contreras' injury was known, Epstein said the team was already in talks with the Royals front office.

"We've been having discussions with Kansas City and they had an opening in their rotation after trading [Homer] Bailey and they'd been talking to a couple teams about Maldonado and we knew that," Epstein said. "We'd actually been working on a version of the deal beforehand and it was something we wanted to quickly finalize once it became clear that Willson was gonna miss some time."

That's interesting.

So the Cubs' interest in Maldonado is not solely based on Contreras' injury, which means they value the veteran catcher as more than just a short-term, couple-week insurance policy to pair with Victor Caratini. 

On the one hand, that leaves the Cubs free to trade Caratini over the next couple weeks if a deal developed.

But the move for Maldonado also shores up a major area of depth for the Cubs, which is exactly what Epstein talked about before Monday's game, referencing the change in MLB rules that eliminated the August waiver wire deadline. Now, every team has to make their moves ahead of the July 31 deadline and that's it.

"Teams need to keep depth in mind a little bit more, that you have to anticipate where you might be vulnerable to an injury and try to build that depth up in advance — preemptively, really — knowing that there's no escape valve in August," Epstein said. "So you gotta really do all your work this month as much as possible and really take a hard look at your organizational depth."

Well, despite fantastic seasons from Contreras and Caratini, the Cubs actually have very little in the way of catching depth beyond those two. Taylor Davis is the only other backstop on the 40-man roster and he has almost no big-league experience. When Caratini was on the IL earlier this year with a hand injury, Davis rarely played in the month-plus he was on the roster.

Even if Contreras' injury is as minor as it appears, it underscores the point that the Cubs' depth is very fragile at the most physically demanding position on the field. What would the team do if Contreras or Caratini suffered an injury in August or September?

Now, they can add Maldonado into the mix — a veteran catcher who draves rave remarks for his defense and game-calling. 

The right-handed-hitting catcher is due to turn 33 next month and is in his ninth big-league season. He hasn't done much with the bat in his career (.289 on-base percentage, .351 slugging) and that hasn't changed this year (.647 OPS), but his work behind the plate was enticing to the Cubs and their veteran-laden pitching staff.

"He's an established catcher in the league who does a lot of great things behind the plate," Epstein said. "He can really receive, he can really throw. He's caught playoff games. He's handled some of the best pitchers in the game; he's a favorite for pitchers to throw to.

"He's very calm back there, very prepared, calls a great game, really soft hands, lot of experience, lot of savvy and someone who we think can step in and share the job with Vic and get up to speed really quickly in what we hope is a brief absence from Willson."

The Cubs haven't yet shared a plan for how they plan to manage the roster crunch for all three catchers when Contreras returns from injury in a week or two, but that might be because they don't yet have a plan. That's more of a "cross that bridge when it comes" type of situation.

When everybody is healthy — if everybody is ever healthy all at the same time — the Cubs could carry three catchers and utilize Contreras' ability to play the outfield and Caratini's first/third base versatility. They could also option Caratini to the minors for a couple weeks and bring him back up when rosters expand in September or if another injury strikes.

Either way, the Cubs front office, coaching staff and pitching staff can rest easier knowing they have another experienced backstop on the roster. 

The other aspect to all this, obviously, is in the Cubs bullpen and starting depth. Montgomery is out, which means there is an easy open spot on the roster for Alec Mills, who is making a spot start Tuesday while Cole Hamels continues to rehab his oblique injury.

In the longer term, this could be a good thing for the Cubs bullpen, as Montgomery was miscast and rarely used as a short-inning reliever. The 30-year-old southpaw last threw on July 2 and has only made five appearances in the last month. 

Montgomery was slowed by injury in spring training and then again in the first couple weeks of the season, but he had been building up his workload of late - throwing at least 2.1 innings in each of his last three outings. Still, the Cubs opted to go with Mills Tuesday against the Reds instead of Montgomery and they also had Tyler Chatwood and Adbert Alzolay in the rotation at various points earlier this season.

Montgomery hasn't started once in 2019, but he made 28 starts in a Cubs uniform, including 19 last year while filling in for the injured Yu Darvish.

The Cubs clearly feel good enough with their rotation depth as is (Mills, Chatwood, Alzolay) and Hamels' return looks to be right around the corner, so the writing was on the wall that Montgomery wouldn't get many chances to start in the short or long term in Chicago.

It's also good for Montgomery, a guy who got the last out in the World Series and did everything asked of him in his three-plus years in Chicago, bouncing between the rotation and bullpen. 

Now he gets an opportunity to start, which he's been vocal about wanting to do, and he'll be thrown right into the fire — the Royals have him penciled in to start Friday...in Cleveland.

How's that for full circle?

After short stint in the majors, White Sox send Zack Collins to Triple-A

After short stint in the majors, White Sox send Zack Collins to Triple-A

When general manager Rick Hahn has talked about bringing up key prospects, he says he wants those players to be able to come up to the majors and stay there. That won't be the case with Zack Collins.

The White Sox sent the catcher down to Triple-A Charlotte following Monday's 5-2 loss to the Royals. No corresponding move will be made until Tuesday, but it is expected Welington Castillo will return from his rehab stint and rejoin the White Sox.

Collins was called up on June 18, but only played in nine games with seven starts in his 28 days on the big league roster. Collins drew a pinch-hit walk in his first plate appearance at the Cubs on June 19. He then homered two days later in his first start in Texas.

After that, Collins struggled. He goes back to Charlotte after hitting .077 (2-for-26) with five walks, the one home run and 14 strikeouts in 31 plate appearances.

It's unclear if Collins had a chance to stick on the roster or if the plan was for him to go back to Triple-A once Castillo was ready to return. Collins certainly didn't do himself any favors at the plate, but he also didn't see regular playing time.

Collins, a first-round pick in 2016, was seen working out at first base in fielding practice before games, but he stuck to catcher and DH. He could have played some first base or DH when Castillo returned. However, the White Sox claimed A.J. Reed off waivers and he debuted after the all-star break. Reed has taken the at-bats at DH, leaving Collins without regular at-bats.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.