CLEVELAND -- Cleveland’s Major League coaching staff is set in stone.
The Guardians announced the promotion of Joe Torres to assistant pitching coach on Wednesday afternoon and confirmed that their intentions are still to have Terry Francona return as the club’s manager this season.
Francona’s future with Cleveland looked a little clouded last July when he had to step away from his position for the second consecutive season due to health problems. This time, he had to get his hip replaced before undergoing a procedure for a staph infection in his left foot that he had been battling since the previous January. At the time, the 62-year-old seemed deflated, hoping that there would be a chance his health could rebound enough by Spring Training. And when he met with local media at the beginning of the offseason, he seemed in much better spirits.
When Francona left the team last July, he was just six wins shy of becoming Cleveland’s all-time managerial wins leader, passing Lou Boudreau. For the rest of the season -- with DeMarlo Hale at the helm -- all the Guardians’ wins went into limbo, waiting to see what the future held for Francona.
It was determined that if he could return as a manager in 2022, the rest of the wins from the '21 season that occurred under Hale would still be credited to Francona. If he couldn’t return, the wins would go toward Hale’s record. Because Francona will be back in '22, he now holds the club’s record for managerial wins (753) and he is 24 games away from breaking Boudreau's franchise record of 1,377 games managed.
As Spring Training draws closer, the team remains confident that Francona will take part in his 10th season as Cleveland’s skipper. And while he will be returning nearly his entire coaching staff from the 2021 season, he’ll have two new faces with him in the dugout.
The Guardians announced early in the winter that they had acquired Chris Valaika from the Cubs to replace Ty Van Burkleo as the their hitting coach for the upcoming season. On Wednesday, Cleveland announced that Torres, who has spent the last two years as the organization’s Minor League pitching coordinator, will serve as an assistant pitching coach to Carl Willis. Torres replaces Ruben Niebla, who was hired as the Padres’ pitching coach earlier this offseason.
Torres is entering his sixth season with the franchise and has worked with a handful of guys who have already seen time in the Majors, including Eli Morgan, Anthony Gose, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, Nick Sandlin and James Karinchak. Prior to his two-year stint as Minor League pitching coordinator, Torres served as the pitching coach for Class A Lynchburg (2019) and Low-A Lake County ('18).