Luis Rojas will return to manage the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats. in 2014. Joining the staff will be pitching coach Marc Valdes and athletic trainer Eric Velazquez, both of whom spent 2013 with the Mets Class-A Short-Season Brooklyn Cyclones. The club will also welcome first-year hitting coach and former Mets slugger Val Pascucci.
Luis Rojas enters his ninth season with the Mets organization and his third as manager of the Savannah Sand Gnats. Rojas led the 2013 Savannah Sand Gnats to its first title in 17 years defeating the Hagerstown Suns, three games to one, in a best-of-five series. “I feel blessed to come back as the Sand Gnats manager. 2013 was truly a memorable season,” said Rojas. “We’ll compete in the 2014 season inning by inning to defend our title.”
Pitching coach Marc Valdes enters his eighth year in the Mets organization and his third overall in Savannah. Valdes spent 2009 and 2010 with the Savannah Sand Gnats. Valdes returns to the club after coaching with the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League in 2013 and the Double-A Binghamton Mets of the Eastern League in 2012.
Hitting Coach Val Pascucci enters his first year coaching after a 13 year playing career that included a stint in the Japan Pacific League. Pascucci was drafted in 1999 out of the University of Oklahoma by the Montreal Expos. The 6’6″ outfielder and first baseman hit his way to the majors in 2004 with the Expos and again in 2011 with the Mets. Pascucci, a Bellflower, Calif., native, won the 2012 Triple-A All Star Game Home Run Derby as a member of the Buffalo Bisons.
Fresh off one of the best seasons in Binghamton Mets history, the New York Mets announced today that manager Pedro Lopez, hitting coach Luis Natera and pitching coach Glenn Abbott will return to guide the Double-A club in 2014.
Lopez, 44, led the 2013 Binghamton Mets to a franchise-record 86 wins and a trip to the postseason, their first since 2004. The club compiled the best record in the Eastern League and took home the regular season Eastern Division crown under their second-year manager.
Entering his fourth season in the New York Mets’ organization, Abbott returns to the Southern Tier for his third year as pitching coach. Prior to his time with the Mets, Abbott was a pitching coach for five years in the San Diego Padres’ system, spent four seasons with the Texas Rangers’ organization and logged 13 years at various levels with the Oakland Athletics. The Arkansas native began his coaching career with the Little Falls Mets in 1985.
Luis Natera will serve as the B-Mets hitting coach for the seventh straight season and eighth overall. This year marks Natera’s 23rd in the Mets’ organization. He has served as a hitting coach at five different levels during that timeframe, including stints with Buffalo (AAA, 2009), St. Lucie (High-A, 2007), Hagerstown (Low-A, 2005-06), Kingsport (Rookie, 2003-04), and Capital City (Low-A, 1999).
Over the weekend, the St. Lucie Mets (Advanced-A) announced their coaching staff as well. Ryan Ellis will return as the Manager and is joined for the third consecutive season by pitching coach Phil Regan and hitting coach Joel Fuentes.
Ellis begins his third season as the team’s manager. In 2013, Ellis guided the Mets to a record of 71-60, just falling short of the second half South Division Playoffs. The Mets finished the season with the second best overall record in the Florida State League Southern Division. He was named Florida State League Manager of the Year in 2012 as the Mets finished with the most wins in team history at 83-52.
Veteran pitching coach Phil Regan enters his sixth season with the St. Lucie Mets. Regan was the pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians in 1999 and served in the same role for the Chicago Cubs in 1997 and 1998. He also was the pitching coach for Team USA during the 2000 Olympics. Regan managed the Baltimore Orioles to a 71-73 record during the strike-shortened 1995 season.
Joel Fuentes will begin his first season as hitting coach for the Mets. Fuentes returns from Savannah, after serving two years as the Sand Gnats hitting coach and in the same role with Brooklyn Cyclones in 2009-2010. In 2008 and 2011, Fuentes coached in St. Lucie. He will enter his eighth season with New York Mets organization.
Finally, Wally Backman will return for his second season as 51s manager, and Frank “Sweet Music” Viola will be the pitching coach for the New York Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, the team announced last week. During the 2013 season, Backman led the 51s to their first Pacific Coast League playoff berth since 2002.
“Frankie’s a great guy. He’s very knowledgeable about the game. He’s a baseball guy,” Backman said. “He played the game a long time and takes a lot of pride working with the pitching staff. He’s going to be an asset to our club.”
The 1987 World Series Most Valuable Player and 1988 American League Cy Young Award winner for the Minnesota Twins, Viola has been a pitching coach in the Mets’ farm system the past three seasons — the past two for the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats after spending 2011 with the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones. Viola replaces Randy St. Claire on the Las Vegas coaching staff.
George Greer will return as hitting coach for Las Vegas.