Russell leaves scouting department; Littlefield joins staff

DETROIT -- One of the hallmarks of Dave Dombrowski's tenure as Tigers president and general manager has been the continuity of his staff, keeping his inner circle of trusted advisors largely together in an era when even top evaluators often bounce around and success usually leads to bigger things for assistants. Dombrowski lost someone from his core group on Monday, but filled the void with a similarly familiar face.

Mike Russell, the longest-tenured scout on the Tigers staff, left for a new opportunity and an old friend, heading to the Arizona Diamondbacks to be a special assistant for pro scouting. He'll be replaced by former Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield, who served as Dombrowski's assistant GM with the Marlins from 1999-2001.

Russell will serve as a special assistant to new D-backs senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson, whom he has known since they worked together with the Marlins in the mid-1990s, both working under Dombrowski. Russell will help coordinate the extensive pro scouting staff the D-backs have put together.

"I'm really excited about it," Russell said. "It was nothing negative. It was just a promotion and a chance to go help a friend."

Russell's ties with Dombrowski date to 1996, when he joined the Marlins to be an area supervisor and a special assignment scout. When Dombrowski left Florida for the Tigers, Russell was one of his earliest hires, coming on board in 2002 to be a Major League scout and remaining in that role until his departure.

Russell's primary role was scouting East Division teams and players. However, he also went out on several special assignments to evaluate Tigers prospects. Russell has scouted for four World Series teams, signed seven Major League players and provided the background work that led to franchise-changing trades such as the Miguel Cabrera deal with the Marlins.

Along with assistant GM Al Avila, VP of player personnel Scott Reid and VP/special assistant David Chadd, Russell was part of the core group on the scouting side.

"Our pro scouting department was very successful in what we did," Russell said. "I'm proud of it. I'm proud to be able to say I helped Dave and played a small part."

Russell was inducted into the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame last summer. He also made his impact on the charitable side, including a donation to pay for the funeral of James Van Horn, better known for his "Eat 'Em Up Tigers" chant around Comerica Park, after Van Horn was killed in a hit-and-run accident last summer.

Russell thanked Dombrowski for the opportunity with the Tigers. He also thanked club owner Mike Ilitch, who helped Russell and his family rebuild their Florida home after Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast in 2004.

"I benefited by being a part of his organization," Russell said.

So, too, could Littlefield, who returns to his original organization a quarter-century after breaking into the scouting ranks. He began his career with the Tigers as an area scout in the late 1980s before Dombrowski hired him for his scouting staff with the Expos in 1991. He climbed the ranks in Montreal under Dan Duquette, Kevin Malone and Jim Beattie before reuniting with Dombrowski in Florida in 1998.

Littlefield left midway through the 2001 season for Pittsburgh, where he briefly hired Avila as a special assistant before Dombrowski tabbed Avila to be his top assistant with Detroit.

Littlefield's Pirates tenure was marked by unsuccessful moves such as Bryan Bullington's selection as the top Draft pick in 2002 and Rajai Davis' trade to San Francisco for Matt Morris, but Littlefield's Draft selections of Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen helped lay a foundation for the later rebuilding that led to the Pirates becoming a contender in recent years.

Littlefield spent the past seven years with the Cubs as a special assistant and a Major League scout.

"Dave brings years of scouting and baseball experience," Dombrowski said, "and will be a solid complement to our baseball-operations department."

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.