Twins add Tingler, Popkins to staff

November 8th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- From the moment the Twins first introduced Rocco Baldelli as manager before the 2019 season, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine referred to the skipper as a "partner," and years later, that collaborative spirit was evidently a big selling point for the two newest members of Minnesota's coaching staff.

When the Twins formally announced the hirings of new bench coach Jayce Tingler and co-hitting coach David Popkins on Monday, both former members of successful organizations, they both spoke of the open, familial nature of Minnesota's decision-makers that drew them to their new positions on Baldelli's coaching staff.

"I wanted to be around a group of good people, good baseball people, and I want to be a part of a team," Tingler said. "I want to be a part of a team that works together, kicks ideas. I wanted a chance to grow, to learn and it was very clear in the process with those discussions, those conversations, how aligned they were with all their processes and that’s one of the things that quite frankly most excited me."

"I've never felt more at home with strangers is the best way I could describe it," Popkins said. "Very welcoming, very open-minded. There wouldn't have been many places that I would have felt that could have pulled me out of the Dodgers, but this was definitely one of them after speaking with everyone."

Tingler, 40, was dismissed as the Padres' manager on Oct. 6 following a 116-106 record in two seasons at the helm in San Diego from 2020-21 and will bring more than a decade of experience working in Major League dugouts, a front office and in player development to the Minnesota coaching staff.

Much like Baldelli and pitching coach Wes Johnson at the times of their hirings, the 31-year-old Popkins enters his new role as hitting coach with no big league experience, having previously served as the hitting coach for Great Lakes, the Dodgers' High-A affiliate. He will work alongside Rudy Hernandez, who has coached Twins hitters since 2015 and was elevated to co-hitting coach before the '20 season.

"When we got a chance to interview him, you don't get a lot of good information, sometimes, from inside the [Dodgers'] organization, when people don't want to lose good people," Falvey said. "But as we got further along in the process, it became so clear to us that everyone in the Dodgers' organization spoke so highly of who David is as a coach, as a learner, as a guy that's continuing to get better, how much he's processed."

Tingler will become the third different bench coach to work with Baldelli in the skipper's four years at the helm of the Twins -- and that's not counting the interim role that Major League coach Bill Evers and Major League field coordinator Kevin Morgan filled while the Twins didn't carry a bench coach in '21 following Mike Bell's death from kidney cancer before the season.

That made it particularly important for the Twins to get a consistent presence in the room as Baldelli's right-hand man. Falvey and Baldelli emphasized the fact that Tingler's managerial experience would make him an important aide as part of in-game decision-making, and they also spoke of the hope that Tingler would be an asset in connecting with players in the clubhouse, on top of the help he could provide in baserunning and outfield instruction.

"Jayce has some real specific skillsets in addition to the pretty amazing experience that he’s had to this point," Baldelli said. "So being able to know that all these things are coming to the table here in this package, it’s a wonderful feeling on my end."

Before Tingler's two seasons at the helm of the Padres, he spent 13 years in the Rangers organization from 2006-19, working under current Twins general manager Thad Levine for much of that time, spanning managerial stints in the Dominican Summer League and Arizona Rookie League, several player development positions and two years as assistant general manager.

Tingler has also served as manager of Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League and is fluent in Spanish, an increasingly important skill in the modern game -- particularly considering the strong Latin-American contingent in the Twins' clubhouse.

Popkins coached Great Lakes hitters, who posted a collective .800 OPS with 187 homers in 2021, leading the High-A Central in both categories. That OPS ranked fourth among all High-A clubs. Before his stint with Great Lakes, Popkins served as a hitting coach with the Rookie-level AZL Dodgers in '20.

When the offseason began, the Twins noted that it would be important to add a coach with a strong grasp of the technical aspects of swing work in the rapidly developing field of hitting. Popkins noted that his philosophy as a coach involves collaborative work leveraging various baseball and conditioning departments and creative use of different instruments and technologies gleaned from his time at various hitting facilities over the years, including Driveline Baseball.

"I never really planned on being a hitting coach, really," Popkins said. "It was just something where I just got addicted to the puzzle. I got addicted to why are so many of these guys doing different things and having success? There has to be some underlying principles or foundations or movement that are going on. I just got addicted. I’m one of those personalities where I have to figure it out."

Popkins is a San Diego native and a graduate of UC Davis who was signed by the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He played three seasons in the St. Louis organization and joined the Dodgers' organization in '19.