KANSAS CITY, MO. (January 10, 2020) – The Kansas City Royals today announced their minor league staff assignments and minor league coordinators for the 2020 season.
Omaha manager Brian Poldberg returns to lead the Storm Chasers for a seventh season, including a Triple-A championship in 2014. He will be joined on the bench by pitching coach, Dane Johnson, who joins the Royals’ organization after serving as a pitching consultant for the Miami Marlins last season. This is his 21st season in coaching, including 19 years in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization as a minor league pitching coach from 2000-03, pitching coordinator from 2004-14 and Major League bullpen coach from 2015-18. That followed a playing career which included parts of three seasons in the Majors with the Chicago White Sox (1994), Blue Jays (1996) and Oakland Athletics (1997). Brian Buchanan will serve as Omaha’s hitting coach for a third consecutive season. Buchanan is entering his 11th year in the organization, including a six-year run as manager at Idaho Falls (2010-11), Kane County (2012), Lexington (2013-14) and Wilmington (2015), plus one-year stints as the hitting coach at Northwest Arkansas (2016) and as the assistant hitting coach with the Major League club (2017). Tony Pena Jr. will serve as Omaha’s bench coach, before assuming managerial duties for the Burlington Royals when the Appalachian League season begins in June. Pena Jr., who is the son of former Royals manager (2002-05), Tony Pena, played for the Kansas City Royals from 2007-09, and most recently managed the Surprise Royals from 2018-19. James Stone will serve as the club’s certified athletic trainer for the second straight season, after spending the previous seven years in the same capacity at Wilmington. Dwayne Peterson joins the Omaha staff as strength & conditioning coach, after serving in the same role in the Houston Astros’ organization for the last six seasons, including the last two at Round Rock (AAA).
Northwest Arkansas will welcome a new manager, as Scott Thorman joins the Naturals after leading Wilmington to the Carolina League championship in 2019 and Lexington to the South Atlantic League title in 2018. Thorman’s staff will include pitching coach Doug Henry, who returns to Northwest Arkansas for a second straight season after serving in a similar role at Wilmington in 2018, which followed a five-year stint as the bullpen coach at the Major League level. Abraham Nunez will also return as hitting coach for the second straight season, after holding the same title at Wilmington in 2018. Tony Medina will step into a new role as development coach for the Naturals, after serving as a video intern with Wilmington in 2019 and Lexington in 2018. Justin Kemp returns as the certified athletic trainer for the second straight season, after holding the title in Idaho Falls the previous three years. Luis Jeronimo joins the Naturals as strength & conditioning coach, after serving in the same role on Thorman’s staff at Wilmington in 2019.
Wilmington will defend its 2019 Carolina League championship with new manager Chris Widger, who led Burlington to the Appalachian League Championship Series in 2019, his first year as manager there. Prior to that, he served as a bench coach at Wilmington from 2017-18. Steve Luebber will return for a second season in his second stint as the Blue Rocks’ pitching coach, his 15th year in the Royals’ organization. Andy LaRoche will be the hitting coach, after beginning his coaching career in the same role with Burlington last season. He played in parts of six seasons in the Majors from 2007-11, 13. The new development coach will be Brandon Nelson, who graduated in 2019 from Willamette University with a degree in computer science with minors in mathematics and economics. Nelson also was a pitcher at Willamette, was a strength & conditioning assistant and sports information assistant. Danny Accola will begin his fourth season in the organization and first as the Blue Rocks’ certified athletic trainer. The strength & conditioning coach will be Taylor Portman, who is entering his second season after joining Idaho Falls during the second half of last season.
Lexington will welcome back manager Brooks Conrad, who led the Legends to their second straight South Atlantic League title in 2019, Conrad’s first year as the club’s manager. He began his tenure in the organization as manager of Burlington in 2018. Conrad played in parts of six seasons in the Majors (2008-12, 2014) before retiring as a player following the 2015 campaign. Carlos Martinez, in his 19th year in the Royals’ organization, will serve as Lexington’s pitching coach, after working in the same role with Burlington for the previous eight seasons. Hitting coach Jesus Azuaje returns for his fourth straight campaign with Lexington and sixth overall in the organization. Glenn Hubbard also returns for his seventh straight season in Lexington, serving as the bench coach. Jason Goldstein joins the Legends as a first-year development coach, after playing three years in the minors with Seattle and Oakland from 2016-18. He was drafted in the ninth round out of the University of Illinois in 2016. Gavin Grosh enters his first year as certified athletic trainer with Lexington, after spending the three previous seasons in that role with Surprise. Yannick Plante will be the strength and conditioning coach, after serving in that role with Burlington last season.
Idaho Falls, the defending Pioneer League champions, will again be led by manager Omar Ramirez, who enters his third season in that role and 12th overall in the Royals’ organization. He previously managed at Burlington (2017), Lexington (2015-16) and Idaho Falls (2012-14). He will be joined on the bench by pitching coach Clayton Mortensen, who is in his second year coaching after retiring as a player following the 2018 season. Chris Nelson enters his third season in the Royals’ organization and first as the full-time hitting coach. Nelson Liriano is in his 19th year in the organization and will join the staff as the bench coach, after serving in that role at Northwest Arkansas last season. Saburo Hagihara will be in his first season with the Chukars as the certified athletic trainer and 11th overall in the organization. C.J. Mikkelsen will serve as the strength & conditioning coach, after graduating with a Master’s of Science in sports physiology from Texas A&M University in December 2019.
Tony Pena Jr., who will begin the season as Omaha’s bench coach, will assume the managerial role in Burlington when the Appalachian League begins in June. Pena Jr. most recently managed the Surprise Royals from 2018-19. John Habyan joins the organization as pitching coach of the B-Royals, after serving as the pitching coach at Hofstra University from 2015-18. Habyan was a third-round pick by Baltimore in 1982, and pitched in the Majors for 11 seasons from 1985-96 with Baltimore (1985-88), the New York Yankees (1990-93), Kansas City (1993), St. Louis (1994-95), California (1995) and Colorado (1996). Ramon Castro will be the hitting coach, after serving in that role with Surprise from 2018-19. His coaching career follows an 18-year playing career in the minors with Atlanta, Oakland, Washington and San Francisco from 1997-2014, including his Major League debut with the A’s in 2004. Brad Groleau will return for his second season in Burlington as the certified athletic trainer. Joey Manana will be the strength & conditioning coach for the second straight season, after filling multiple roles across the short-season affiliates in 2019.
Miguel Bernard will manage the Surprise Royals in 2020, his eighth season with the organization and first in this role. He was the catching coach for the Dominican Summer League Royals in 2019, after managing the DSL team from 2016-18. Mark Davis will return for his 15th year in the Royals’ organization and his fifth straight as pitching coach in Surprise. Andre David returns for his 22nd season in the Royals’ organization as the hitting coach in Surprise, a role he previously held in 2018 and from 2010-12. Last season, he served as the organization’s roving hitting coach. Willie Aikens will return as bench coach for his ninth season with Surprise. The eight-year Major Leaguer played for the Angels in 1977 and 1979, the Royals from 1980-83 and the Blue Jays from 1984-85. Julio Pimentel will return as a pitching coach with Surprise for the second straight season. Nevan Dominguez will be the certified athletic trainer, after serving in a similar role with the Royals’ Dominican Academy from 2018-19. Phil Falco, who was recently promoted to a role as the organization’s assistant strength & conditioning coordinator, will also serve as the Surprise strength & conditioning coach. Carlos Reyes will return as the rehab pitching coach for his 12th season with the organization and fourth straight in Surprise.
Coordinators and Roving positions:
Senior coordinator of player development Chino Cadahia begins his 10th year in the organization and his 36th in coaching at the professional level. Cadahia previously served as the bench coach in Kansas City for two seasons (2012-13), after serving in that role with the Atlanta Braves from 2007-10. He was a part of the Atlanta organization from 1996-2010.
John Wathan, a former player and manager for the Royals, returns for his 48th season in baseball, and 44th with the organization, as a special assistant to player development.
Alec Zumwalt is in his ninth season with the Royals and first as director of hitting performance and player development. From 2018-19, he was the director of baseball operations and player development. Prior to that, he was a Major League advance scout from 2013-17 and pro scout in 2012.
John Wagle has been promoted to director of performance science and player development after being named the Royals’ minor league strength & conditioning coordinator last season.
Nick Relic has been promoted to manager of minor league operations, after serving as the club’s assistant to player development and video coordinator for the previous three years. He is in his 10th season with the organization.
Nick Leto begins his 13th full season as manager of Arizona operations. He works closely with player development, as well as amateur and international scouting, and manages the Royals’ Surprise, Ariz. complex.
Malcom Culver enters his second season as assistant to player development. He played 10 seasons in the Royals’ minor league system from 2008-17.
Monica Ramirez enters her fourth season as the coordinator of education/ESL and Latin American initiatives. She has previously served in a consulting role in the organization since 2007.
Will Simon enters his 14th season as the minor league equipment manager. He manages clubhouse operations for minor league Spring Training, extended Spring Training and fall instructional league.
Derrick Robinson re-joins the organization in 2020 as a Baseball Operations Intern. He was selected by the Royals in the fourth round of the 2006 Draft and played for 10 seasons, including one year in the Majors with Cincinnati in 2013.
Paul Gibson is in his 10th season with the Royals and first as director of pitching performance. He previously served as a special assistant to the general manager/pitching advisor, and as a national supervisor in the scouting department.
Jason Simontacchi has been named the Royals’ pitching coordinator, after serving as the assistant pitching coordinator from 2018-19. He was originally drafted by Kansas City in 1996 before playing four seasons in the Majors with St. Louis (2002-04) and Washington (2007). Prior to re-joining the Royals’ organization, he worked in various roles throughout the Cardinals’ minor league system for five years.
Mitch Stetter has been named manager of pitching performance, after spending the five previous seasons in the Royals’ organization as the pitching coach at Lexington (A) from 2016-19 and Surprise (R) in 2015. He pitched five seasons with Milwaukee from 2007-11.
Jeff Suppan enters his second season as the Royals’ roving pitching coach, after serving the previous four seasons as the pitching coach with Idaho Falls. Suppan played 17 seasons in the Majors, including with the Royals from 1998-2002, and was the club’s Pitcher of the Year in 2000 and 2001.
Derrick Lewis joins the Royals’ organization as assistant pitching coach in 2020. He spent the previous 16 seasons in the Atlanta Braves’ organization, including the last two as the pitching coordinator. He played seven seasons in the Braves’ organization from 1997-2003, after being selected in the 20th round of the 1997 Draft.
Harry Spilman returns for his sixth season with the Royals as a special assistant to player development. He previously served as a special assistant to player development from 2015-19. Spilman played for 12 seasons in the Majors with the Reds, Astros, Tigers and Giants from 1978-89.
Drew Saylor joins the Royals’ organization as the hitting coordinator in 2020. He spent the 2019 season as the assistant hitting coordinator and manager at West Virginia (A) in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization. Prior to that, he managed for three seasons in the Dodgers’ organization and was named Minor League Baseball’s Manager of the Year by Baseball America. He was selected as an infielder by the Marlins in the 13th round of the 2006 Draft, and played for two seasons in the minors for the Marlins (2006) and Astros (2007).
Keoni DeRenne joins the Royals’ organization as the assistant hitting coordinator, after spending last season as the hitting coach at Iowa (AAA) in the Chicago Cubs’ organization. Prior to that, he spent seven seasons as a hitting coach in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization, and also managed the Pirates’ Dominican Summer League team in 2013. DeRenne played eight seasons in the minors with the Braves, Yankees, Diamondbacks, Red Sox and Phillies from 2000-06, 2010.
Mike Tosar joins the Royals’ organization as the special assignment hitting coach in 2020, after serving as an international scout and special assignment hitting coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2012-19. Prior to that, he served in various scouting and coaching roles throughout the Seattle Mariners’ organization from 2006-09. Tosar played three seasons in the minor leagues with the New York Mets (1991) and Montreal Expos (1992-93).
J.C. Boscan enters his fourth season as the Royals’ minor league catching coordinator. He played in parts of 19 seasons in the minors, most recently in 2015 with Triple-A Omaha. Boscan also played in parts of four seasons in the Majors with Atlanta (2010-12) and the Chicago Cubs (2013).
Damon Hollins has been named coordinator of outfield, baserunning and bunting for the 2020 season, which will mark his 11th year in the Royals’ organization. Prior to a three-year stint as hitting coach at Idaho Falls (R) from 2017-19, he coached in various roles throughout the organization at Lexington (A) from 2015-16, Idaho Falls from 2013-14, Wilmington (A+) in 2012, Kane County (A) in 2011 and Burlington (R) in 2010. Hollins played four seasons in the Majors with the Atlanta Braves (1998, 2004), Los Angeles Dodgers (1998) and Tampa Bay (2005-06).
Eddie Rodriguez returns for a fourth season with the Royals and first as the minor league infield coordinator, after spending the previous three seasons in the San Diego Padres’ organization. He spent the previous five seasons with the Royals (2009-13), most recently as the club’s third base coach from 2011-13.
Jarret Abell will serve as the coordinator of strength & conditioning this season, after serving as the assistant strength & conditioning coordinator in 2019. Prior to that, he was the strength & conditioning coach with Northwest Arkansas (AA) from 2017-18, Wilmington (A+) in 2016, Lexington (A) in 2015 and Idaho Falls (R) in 2014.
Dave Iannicca is in his second season as the minor league medical coordinator, after spending the eight previous seasons as the certified athletic trainer at Omaha.
Justin Hahn enters his eighth season in the Royals’ organization and seventh as the minor league rehab coordinator and physical therapist.
Tony Medina will enter his ninth season as the Latin American medical coordinator. Prior to that, he spent eight years as an athletic trainer at various levels throughout the Royals’ organization.
Rustin Sveum is the minor league video coordinator, after serving as a video intern the three previous seasons at Idaho Falls (2017), Wilmington (2018) and Northwest Arkansas (2019). Rustin is the son of Dale Sveum, who served as the Royals’ bench coach from 2018-19, hitting coach from 2014-17 and third base coach in 2014.