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Astros set to restructure staffing in Minors

SEATTLE -- Tom Lawless, who managed the Astros for the final 24 games of last season on an interim basis to replace Bo Porter, was among a handful of Minor League staffers who were dismissed by the club.

Lawless had just finished his seventh season with the Astros, serving this year as a developmental specialist at Double-A Corpus Christi. The Astros are eliminating the position of developmental specialist as part of their offseason Minor League restructuring, general manager Jeff Luhnow said Wednesday. Jeff Murphy, a developmental specialist at Triple-A Fresno who was on the big league staff in 2013, was also dismissed, along with Class A Quad Cities developmental specialist Tim Garland, and others.

"This is the time of year when we look at all the Minor League staff and try to configure everybody for next year," Luhnow said. "We're in the middle of that process; we're not done with it. I'm not going to be able to talk about specifics except tell you that we're going to be creating a few new positions and we're also going to be eliminating a few positions, and the position of developmental specialist, which we've had the last three years, we're going to move away from that model and go in a different direction and as a result of that, some of the people that were in that role will not have an opportunity to come back next year.

"In addition to that, we're looking at every level and trying to match up the right coaches. In general we're very happy with the output of our Minor Leagues and very happy with the staff we have. Most everybody will be returning, but there are a few that will not."

The Astros had seven of their Minor League affiliates make the playoffs, with Fresno winning the Triple-A championship. Luhnow said the changes would be announced sometime in the next week, but he said the full-season managers should all be back in the same spots -- Tony DeFrancesco at Triple-A Fresno; Rodney Linares at Double-A Corpus Christi; Omar Lopez at Class A Lancaster; and Josh Bonifay at Class A Quad Cities.

The Astros had a developmental specialist at each level to ensure fundamentals were being done properly rather than relying on rovers and one field coordinator. They also visited other clubs when their team was on the road and did some scouting.

"It added value, for sure, the last few years, but we ended up layering back in rovers, and so it ended up having some redundancy and we feel like those resources can be better allocated in other areas for us," Luhnow said.

Without giving specifics, Luhnow said positions would be created to aid the team in implementing some of the newer technologies on the Minor League side. He said it would be a hybrid coaching-front office role, with a couple scattered around the Minors rather than sending front office people out to the field.

"We're still very much at the beginning stages of this, but the idea would be to align our resources where we believe our competitive advantage is in developing players," Luhnow said.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
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