Tigers fire six minor league coaches; future of Mud Hens’ Doug Mientkiewicz not determined

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Doug Mientkiewicz

Following a 2019 farm season of noteworthy ups and assorted downs, the Tigers have dropped six minor-league staffers.

They also have not determined with finality if Triple A Toledo manager Doug Mientkiewicz is returning as Mud Hens manager.

Among those staffers who have been informed they will not be back in 2020:

►Basilio Cabrera, Triple A Toledo’s third-base coach.

►Brian Harper, hitting coach at Double A Erie.

►Bill Dancy, Tigers minor-league field coordinator.

►Eddie Dennis, a versatile coach who worked on manager Lance Parrish’s staff at Single A West Michigan.

►Luis Lopez, manager for the Gulf Coast League East rookie team.

►Jose Parra, pitching coach at GCL East.

The dismissals were confirmed by Dave Littlefield, Tigers vice president for development.

Littlefield said Mientkiewicz’s future has not been finalized, but he advised against any inference that Mientkiewicz, who has managed the Triple A Mud Hens the past two years, was out as Toledo’s skipper in 2020.

Mientkiewicz would not comment on his future at Toledo when reached by phone on Saturday. But he acknowledged that matters were not entirely resolved.

He was given a two-year contract at the end of the 2018 season.

The Mud Hens finished 66-74 in 2019, tied for second place in the four-team International League West Division.

Mike Rabelo

Should the Tigers decide against Mientkiewicz returning, a logical guess as successor would be Mike Rabelo, manager at Double A Erie. The SeaWolves tied for first place in the Eastern League Western Division, missing the playoffs only because of rival Bowie’s edge in a tiebreaker. The SeaWolves had gone on a 41-16 run by mid-August that had them on path for a division title until a rocky final two weeks quashed their playoff shot.

Rabelo, a former Tigers catcher who was part of the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, has been on the rise in the Tigers system since he began managing at Single A Connecticut in 2014.

Rabelo is preparing for autumn work managing in the Arizona Fall League, where he will supervise the Mesa Solar Sox, whose roster includes six Tigers prospects.

Rabelo, 39, is at least tentatively set for a second season at Erie in 2020, but it will be minus Harper, who was hitting coach at Toledo in 2017 and 2018 before being moved to Erie when Mike Hessman became Mud Hens batting coach.

Harper, 59, played 16 seasons in the big leagues, including one season (1986) with the Tigers. He was a minor-league hitting instructor with the Cubs before joining the Tigers.

Basilio Cabrera, likewise, will not rejoin the Mud Hens in 2020. A one-time Tigers outfield prospect, Cabrera, 52, had been Toledo’s third-base coach the past four seasons.

Dancy, 67, had been with the Tigers since 2013, overseeing their on-field development operations. He was a longtime manager in the Phillies farm system, and a third-base coach for the big-league Phillies, before the Cubs made him minor-league field coordinator in 2012.

A year later he took the same job with Detroit.

Dennis, 59, was a GCL hitting coach with the Tigers in 2018 before shifting to West Michigan, where he worked as an all-around coach, with emphasis on infielders.

Lopez managed the GCL Tigers in 2018 and 2019 after six years as the Braves’ minor-league infield coordinator.

Parra, 46, pitched five seasons in the big leagues with five clubs from 1995-2004. From 2008-17 he was pitching coach for the Tigers’ Dominican Summer League team.

He moved to Detroit’s GCL East club in 2018.

The 2019 season, overall on the Tigers farm, was a mixed bag, typical of most seasons for most clubs in the world of minor-league clubs and their ever-changing rosters.

While the SeaWolves often dazzled with exceptional pitching, Single A West Michigan had a last-place finish and 42-90 record.

Other than Erie, no Tigers affiliate had a .500 or better record as a rebuilding big-league franchise, while gaining in pitching prospects and a 2019 first-round outfielder in Riley Greene, continued with its labors, and its challenges, on the farm.

Freelance writer Lynn Henning is a former Detroit News reporter.