ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—The Tampa Bay Rays have named the minor league on-field coaching and medical staffs for the 2023 season. Below are the organizational changes for minor league managerial roles:
- Triple-A Durham Manager Michael Johns, spent last season as a minor league field coordinator
- Class-A Bowling Green Manager Rafael Valenzuela, spent last season managing the Rookie-level FCL Rays
- Class-A Charleston Manager Sean Smedley, spent last season as bench coach for Double-A Montgomery
- FCL Rays Manager Frank Maldonado, spent last season as manager, hitting development
Below are the organizational changes for minor league coordinator roles:
- Assistant field coordinator Blake Butera, spent last season managing Class-A Charleston
- Pitching coordinator Jim Paduch, spent last season as pitching coach for Double-A Montgomery
- Pitching coordinator Alberto Bastardo, spent last season as pitching coach for Class-A Bowling Green
- Hitting coordinator Will Bradley, spent last season as hitting coach for Triple-A Durham
- Catching coordinator Jeff Smith, spent last season managing Class-A Bowling Green
- Complex medical/rehab coordinator Scott Thurston, spent last season as athletic trainer for Triple-A Durham
Below are the new hires for minor league coordinator roles:
- Outfield/baserunning coordinator Jared Sandberg rejoins the Rays organization, where he began his coaching career and spent 10 seasons as a minor league manager. Most recently, he spent one season managing Triple-A El Paso (2022) in the San Diego Padres system and three seasons on the major league coaching staff of the Seattle Mariners (2019-21). He was selected by the Rays in the 16th round of the club’s first-ever Amateur Draft in 1996 and played with the Rays for parts of three major league seasons (2001-03). He is the nephew of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.
Below are the new hires to the minor league on-field coaching and medical staffs:
- Hitting coach Kenny Hook (Triple-A Durham) spent the last three seasons in the Los Angeles Angels organization as a hitting coach for Double-A Rocket City (2021-22) and Class-A Inland Empire (2020, season canceled).
- Conditioning Coach Steve Chase (Triple-A Durham) joins the Rays after 18 seasons in the Detroit Tigers organization, most recently as the strength and conditioning coordinator on the major league staff (2021-22). He spent six seasons as their minor league strength and conditioning coordinator and six seasons as their assistant minor league strength and conditioning coordinator. Prior to that, he was with Triple-A Toledo, Double-A Erie and Class-A Lakeland.
- Pitching coach Steve Merriman (Double-A Montgomery) joins the Rays from the University of Michigan, where he spent the last two seasons (2021-22) as pitching coach. Prior to the Wolverines, he spent time in the Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets and Detroit Tigers organizations.
- Conditioning Coach Austin Teets (Double-A Montgomery) spent last season as an assistant strength and conditioning coordinator in the Seattle Mariners organization. He has previous experience as a strength coach at Elmira College and New York Sport and Fitness. Last May, he earned a masters degree in management at Elmira College.
- Pitching coach Henry Bonilla (Rookie-level FCL Rays) was the director of pitcher development at the Velocity Sports Warehouse training facility in Fort Myers from 2019-22. He coached in the Minnesota Twins system from 2012-18.
- Athletic trainer Kyndell Crowell (Rookie-level FCL Rays) spent last season as an associate athletic trainer in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. She has a masters degree in athletic training from Point Loma Nazarene University.
- Conditioning Coach Giovanni Caraballo (Rookie-level FCL Rays) spent last season completing a strength and conditioning apprenticeship in the Houston Astros organization. He graduated from Montclair State University in 2016.
- Seasonal Development Coach Braxton Martinez (Rookie-level FCL Rays) joins the professional coaching ranks after playing two seasons in the Los Angeles Angels system. In 2019, he served as a player/coach for the River City Rascals in the independent Frontier League and was added to the Saint Louis University staff as a volunteer assistant coach.
Below are the organizational changes to the minor league coaching and medical staffs for the 2023 season:
Johns, 47, returns to a managerial role after spending the last five years (2018-22) as a minor league field coordinator. He managed Class-A Charlotte from 2015-17, Class-A Bowling Green in 2014, Short-A Hudson Valley in 2013 and Rookie-level Princeton from 2010-12. He served as a coach in Hudson Valley from 2008-09, his first assignments in the Rays organization. Prior to joining the Rays, he was the head coach at Orange Park (Fla.) High School from 2004-07 and spent four years as the assistant coach at Fernandina Beach (Fla.) High School. The former middle infielder was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 19th round of the 1997 Amateur Draft and played two years for their Class-A affiliates.
Valenzuela, 35, joins Class-A Bowling Green after three seasons managing the Rookie-level FCL Rays, leading them to the league’s best record and highest run differential in each of the last two seasons. He coached Rookie-level Princeton in 2018 and split the 2017 season between Triple-A Durham (second half) and the major league Rays (first half). He began his coaching career with the GCL Rays in 2016 following a four-year playing career in the Astros organization (2010-13).
Smedley, 32, enters his first season managing at any level after serving as bench coach for Double-A Montgomery in 2022 and Class-A Charleston in 2021. He was assigned to manage Rookie-level Princeton in 2020 before the pandemic forced the cancellation of the season. He coached two seasons with Short-A Hudson Valley (2018-19), one season with the Rookie-level GCL Rays (2017) and was the video coordinator for Princeton in 2016. He was signed by the Rays as a non-drafted free agent out of Texas A&M International University in 2013 and appeared in 24 games over three minor league seasons.
Maldonado, 47, enters his first season managing at any level. He joined the Rays in advance of the canceled 2020 season and spent the 2021 season as hitting coach for the Rookie-level FCL Rays before a promotion to manager, hitting development for the 2022 season. Prior to the Rays, he spent over 20 years at the collegiate level, most recently as the head coach at Greensboro (N.C.) College from 2016-19. His coaching career includes stints as an assistant coach at the University of Tampa (2015, 2006-10) and University of South Florida (2011-14), Cal Lutheran University and Barstow Community College.