DETROIT -- The revamp of the Tigers’ Major League hitting instruction will include a former University of Michigan player and assistant (still in his 20s), a veteran Major League coach with American League Central ties and a longtime Minor League instructor in the Dodgers' farm system. Together, through their different backgrounds, they’ll be tasked with both turning around a Detroit lineup that ranked last in the Majors in run production and focusing hitters on controlling the strike zone.
“We’ve worked really hard over the past few weeks on trying to assemble a group that we think can really make our players better,” president of baseball operations Scott Harris told reporters during last week’s General Managers Meetings.
The Tigers will have three hitting coaches on their big league staff for the first time in their history. It’s an expansion that resembles the staffs that the Giants put together the last few years under manager Gabe Kapler and then-general manager Harris. It also reflects a diversity manager A.J. Hinch hinted at during his end-of-season remarks last month.
“I do believe in trying to find various backgrounds, various specialties,” Hinch said. “I like [staffs where] some played, some didn’t play, some are on the analytical side, some are on the more traditional side. I think the balance of a staff needs to have a lot of different voices to come from different ways [to reach players]. That’s more important than number of voices. …
“It’s important to reach every angle in the clubhouse. We have a 22-year-old Riley Greene and a [soon-to-be] 40-year-old Miguel Cabrera. One hitting coach can get both of those guys? That’d be like a unicorn. So it’s important for us to blend it.”
Here’s a look at who’s coming in:
• Michael Brdar, who played shortstop at Michigan in 2016 and '17 and ascended the coaching ranks quickly after a brief Minor League playing career, will take over as hitting coach. He served as the Padres’ hitting coach this past season after working two years as a hitting coordinator with the Giants, during a time when Harris was San Francisco’s general manager. Brdar was an assistant on Michigan’s staff in '18 and '19, working alongside current Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter. The Padres granted the Tigers permission to interview Brdar after the season. Still just 28, he’s younger than several hitters he’ll be tasked with coaching, including Cabrera, Jonathan Schoop, Javier Báez and Eric Haase.
• Keith Beauregard joins the staff as a hitting coach after spending the last four years in the Dodgers' farm system -- the last two as an assistant field coordinator, and the two seasons prior as a Minor League hitting instructor. The 39-year-old played collegiately at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, then played independent ball before getting into coaching a decade ago. He’s the latest Tigers hire from the Dodgers' player development system, a group that also includes pitching director Gabe Ribas, field coordinator Ryan Sienko and pitching coordinator Stephanos Stroop.
• James Rowson joins the Tigers staff as an assistant hitting coach after spending the last three seasons as the Marlins' bench coach under then-manager Don Mattingly. Rowson served as the Twins’ hitting coach from 2017-19, leading a Minnesota lineup that ranked among the Major League leaders in RBIs and runs scored while setting an MLB record for home runs in 2019. He served as the Cubs’ hitting coach in '12 and spent a pair of three-year stints as the Yankees’ Minor League hitting coordinator. Add up the stops and the 46-year-old Rowson has spent two decades coaching professional baseball.
In addition to the hitting hires, the Tigers also announced the addition of former University of Iowa pitching coach Robin Lund, a move that came together earlier this month. The former kinesiology professor will work as an assistant pitching coach under Fetter, his former Big Ten rival.
The Tigers also announced the hire of Ryne Eubanks as head athletic trainer. He spent nine years with the D-backs, including the last three seasons as an assistant athletic trainer. The University of Arkansas graduate has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology-exercise science and a master’s degree in athletic training from the school. He replaces Doug Teter, who is transitioning to a role based out of the Tigers’ facility in Lakeland, Fla. Assistant athletic trainers Matt Rankin and Chris McDonald are expected to remain on staff.