Maroth moves up to coach pitchers at Toledo

Former Tigers left-hander spent past three seasons with Lakeland

Maroth moves up to coach pitchers at Toledo

DETROIT -- The last time Mike Maroth took the mound in Toledo, he was trying to work his way back into the Tigers rotation. That was in 2006, after he underwent surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow earlier that year.

He missed out on the Tigers' postseason run that fall, and his Detroit tenure ended the next summer. When he walks to that same mound at Fifth Third Field next spring, he'll be playing a quietly important part toward trying to get the Tigers back to the World Series -- as a coach.

After three seasons close to home as the pitching coach for Class A Advanced Lakeland, Maroth is moving up to take the same post with the Triple-A Mud Hens. It's a promotion that puts Maroth in line to take the under-appreciated challenge of handling pitching prospects on their last step before the Majors as well as struggling pitchers sent down from Detroit to work on issues.

The promotion was finalized this week.

The Tigers have not yet announced their full Minor League staff, pending some final decisions. Detroit also has a big league opening for an assistant hitting coach, which could factor into that as the Tigers consider internal candidates and others from outside the organization.

Maroth replaces former Major League pitcher Al Nipper, who spent one season with the Hens after his predecessor, former Tigers pitcher and University of Toledo product A.J. Sager, left to take over as the Tigers' Minor League pitching coordinator.

Maroth made 48 starts over parts of three seasons for Toledo. He arrived in 2001 as a 23-year-old prospect who had lost 14 games the previous year at Double-A Jacksonville. He went 7-10 with a 4.65 ERA in his first year with the Hens, then made the learning curve to rule the International League the next year.

Maroth went 8-1 with a 2.82 ERA in 11 starts for Toledo in 2002, essentially forcing his way into the struggling Tigers rotation. He lost 21 games the next year on Detroit's record-setting 119-loss team, but his quiet composure and dignity set the tone for a club whose struggles put it in the national spotlight by season's end. Maroth went 11-13 in 2004 and 14-14 in 2005.

He never had overpowering stuff as a pitcher, armed with a fastball that rarely hit 90 mph, but he lasted six years in the Majors on his ability to mix pitches and keep hitters off-balance. His pitching know-how served him well in Lakeland, where he worked with several prospects on their way up. Among his former pupils to reach the big leagues are Bruce Rondon, Jacob Turner, Kyle Ryan, Drew VerHagen, Melvin Mercedes and Brian Flynn. In addition, Maroth coached Jake Thompson en route to his Futures Game selection this past summer before the Tigers traded him to Texas in the Joakim Soria deal.

Maroth will get to work alongside his old Mud Hens manager, Larry Parrish. The Tigers will have to fill the pitching-coach spots below Maroth, including his old job at Lakeland, as well as at low Class A West Michigan. The West Michigan job opened up when former Tigers closer Mike Henneman stepped down last month, though Henneman could end up filling an opening at a higher level.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.