Tigers promote Maroth as part of Minors' staff changes

Tigers promote Maroth as part of Minors' staff changes

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

Maroth 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 at Class A Advanced Lakeland, Maroth is moving up to take the same post with the Mud Hens. The move was made in October, but it became official Tuesday with the full release of the Tigers' Minor League staffing assignments.

Maroth joins manager Larry Parrish and hitting coach Leon Durham in Toledo.

Nearly every Tigers Minor League affiliate will have a different pitching coach than last year. Mike Henneman, last year's pitching coach at Class A West Michigan, moves up to Double-A Erie to join manager Lance Parrish and hitting coach Gerald Perry.

Jorge Cordova, pitching coach for the Tigers' Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team last year, moves up to Lakeland to replace Maroth. He joins manager Dave Huppert and hitting coach Nelson Santovenia.

Mark Johnson, pitching coach at short-season Class A Connecticut last season, replaces Henneman at West Michigan, joining manager Andrew Graham. The Whitecaps will also have a new hitting coach in former Tigers first-round pick Phil Clark, who had been coaching in the Indians' organization.

Carlos Chantres joins the Tigers' system to replace Johnson at Connecticut, coaching for manager Mike Rabelo alongside hitting coach Scott Dwyer. Jaime Garcia will be the new pitching coach in the Gulf Coast League for manager Basilio Cabrera and hitting coach Edgar Alfonzo.

But the big promotion is Maroth, who replaces former Major League hurler Al Nipper. Maroth earned rave reviews in Lakeland, where he worked with several Tigers 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.

In Toledo, however, Maroth will not only be working with prospects on their way up. He'll also be trying to help fix pitchers who have been sent down, which can require an entirely different skill.

"Yeah, it is important," player-development director Dave Owen said. "He's going to play a role to help navigate these guys back to Brad if they come down from the big leagues, or get them ready to go to Detroit.

"Mike's very a smart guy. He's got the experience. He's done it. He's been there. He wasn't the guy that blew people away, so he knows he's got some things that he can put on the table to help navigate these guys through. He has a lot of good experience with us as a young coach and in the Arizona Fall League. We feel like he'll be a very nice fit for us there to help our guys."

Maroth spent parts of three seasons at Toledo, making 38 starts there. He arrived in 2001 as a 23-year-old pitching 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 adjusted to the learning curve and ruled 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 year's end. Maroth went 14-14 two years later.

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.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.