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Blue Jays promote Huffman to head trainer

MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have found their new head athletic trainer, and she's a familiar face to the organization.

Nikki Huffman has been promoted from head physical therapist to head athletic trainer, the club announced Friday.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have found their new head athletic trainer, and she's a familiar face to the organization.

Nikki Huffman has been promoted from head physical therapist to head athletic trainer, the club announced Friday.

Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman was quick to praise the news when it was first reported Wednesday. Stroman worked alongside Huffman in 2015 when he was recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee at Duke University. He was expected to miss the entire season, but his rehab with Huffman led to a September return and a memorable appearance in the MLB postseason.

"Head athletic trainer of THE Toronto Blue Jays," Stroman wrote on Twitter. "More than deserving. She's the best, no argument. ACL recovery in five months. Glad I brought you with me from Duke University! Keep climbing LIFER!"

Prior to the 2016 season, she was named Toronto's physical therapist and rehab coordinator. Huffman was a frequent presence around the big league team while also treating injured athletes at the club's Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla.

Tweet from @MStrooo6: Head Athletic Trainer of THE Toronto @BlueJays. More than deserving. She���s the best, no argument. ACL recovery in 5 months. Glad I brought you with me from @DukeU! Keep climbing LIFER! @NikkiG_13

The Blue Jays had an unexpected vacancy on their medical staff when longtime athletic trainer George Poulis joined former Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos with the Braves last month. Poulis had been with the organization for 15 years, but several members of his staff recently had been let go.

Huffman now heads up the new-look staff. Jose Ministral is the new assistant athletic trainer after spending last year as the Minor League athletic training coordinator. Donovan Santas was recently announced as the head of strength and conditioning after previously holding the same job in the Minors. The two replace the outgoing duo of assistant athletic trainer Mike Frostad and conditioning head Chris Joyner.

The widescale changes should not have come as a surprise, because general manager Ross Atkins hinted that something was on the way during his year-end news conference. Atkins spoke of communication issues between the players, medical staff and front office. Atkins took responsibility for the problems, but it seemed inevitable at the time that some type of shakeup was coming.

"That happens in transitions. That's on me, that's where I've got to ensure that doesn't occur," Atkins said of the communication issues while touching on areas for improvement.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

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