Tigers glad to have McClendon back as hitting coach

Former Seattle manager returning to position he held for 7 years

Tigers glad to have McClendon back as hitting coach

DETROIT -- Give Lloyd McClendon credit: As he made his way through TigerFest for the first time in three years, he didn't need cajoling to find a sense of humor about returning to his old hitting-coach job under a new manager.

"Baseball's the only sport where you can get fired, rehired and promoted to your old position," McClendon said with a chuckle last month.

He was the hitting coach for seven seasons under manager Jim Leyland, overseeing such feats as Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown, Magglio Ordonez's batting title, Curtis Granderson's 23-triple season and Prince Fielder's 30-homer campaign in Detroit.

McClendon wasn't so much fired as he wasn't promoted when Leyland retired after the 2013 season. McClendon interviewed for the chance to succeed Leyland, but when the Tigers hired Brad Ausmus, McClendon went to Seattle, where the Mariners hired him as their manager.

After two years at the helm of the M's, McClendon returned to the Tigers organization as manager at Triple-A Toledo. Once Wally Joyner parted ways as hitting coach in Detroit, McClendon took his old job back, this time under Ausmus, and he's tasked with finding more consistency out of a formidable lineup.

"Actually, my gut told me that I didn't think Wally would come back again," Ausmus said during the Winter Meetings in December. "In the back of my mind, Mac was the guy, because he has a rapport with some of the veterans. He's been around some of these hitters. He has the respect, and I like that, with our veteran core having someone of that type of stature as the hitting coach."

Even three years separated from his previous stint as Tigers hitting coach, McClendon has a working knowledge of several core hitters, including Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Nick Castellanos and Jose Iglesias.

"I was here for a month observing," said McClendon, who served as an extra coach once the Mud Hens' season ended this past September. "Wally and I talked quite a bit. And again, I know the guys, and I know myself, and I know what I like to do, and I believe in routines. If you can develop a routine that will get you prepared on a daily basis to find your swing and prepare yourself from a mental standpoint, it should sustain you throughout the year."

Just as important, though, his year in Toledo gives him a working knowledge of the Tigers' young hitters, from prospects JaCoby Jones and Steven Moya to Tyler Collins and Dixon Machado.

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"I think he progressed quite well," McClendon said of Jones. "He struggled initially at Triple-A, but he survived it and showed some mental toughness. The skill level is such that he has a chance to be an impactful type of player at the Major League level. When that happens, I couldn't tell you, whether it's going to be coming out of spring or sometime during the season or what. His skill set is such that he will be an impactful player at this level."

McClendon is also bullish on Moya, despite his struggles in limited playing time in Detroit last year.

"At the Triple-A level, Moya was getting five at-bats a night," McClendon said. "And listen, I was a bench player, and I can attest to the fact that it is the toughest job in all of baseball. And it's extremely tough for a young player to come to this level and get two, three at-bats a week. It's just not productive. Can he be a productive player if he's in the lineup every day? I think so. I think when he first came to the big leagues and we had the injuries, he was playing, and he produced. When he came back the second time, the at-bats weren't there for him.

"All big guys like him, with long arms and long legs and long strides, he's going to strike out some. But he can also hit it out of the ballpark. And when he hits it, it goes. He has shown the ability to hit the ball the other way. He did cut the strikeouts down some. I think he has the chance to be an impactful player at this level. It's just a matter of whether or not we can find him playing time."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.