REPORTS: Tigers have added Omar Vizquel to staff, to coach first, infield and baserunning
A key to making out a coaching staff is to hire people who complement the head coach or manager’s skill set.
So far, new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has done just that, hiring folks who have big-league coaching (or managing experience) to fill out his coaching staff.
He reportedly added another on Monday, tabbing former big-league shortstop Omar Vizquel as his new first base coach.
MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez confirmed reports out of Venezuela that Vizquel had left his role as a roving instructor for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to join the Tigers. Venezuelan journalist Wilmer Reina confirms he’ll fill the dual role of infield coach — as Rafael Belliard did on Jim Leyland’s staff last year — which is a perfect resource for a Tigers team with questionable infield defense. Vizquel will also tutor the Tigers in baserunning, something else they haven’t been very good at in recent years. [UPDATED: Tigers confirm the hiring of Vizquel, Wally Joyner, Mick Billmeyer and Matt Martin.]
It’ll also be a resource to have a coach perfectly fluent in Spanish, something the Tigers felt was important to have — enough so that it was one of the selling points for interviewing a guy like San Diego Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, who ended up with the Cubs.
It’s a skill not lost on the new manager, either.
One of the things that most impressed Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski about Ausmus during the interview process was that the former catcher had taken it upon himself to learn Spanish.
“I think it’s important, because what it shows you is, he’s committed to learning his profession. He took Spanish lessons separately, to learn how to do that. I think it’s very important. And it’s an important part of our game,” Dombrowski said at Ausmus’ introductory press conference.
“First of all, he emphasized, he said, ‘I am not fluent.’ But I think it’s important to be able to communicate with the Hispanic players, in their own language at times.
“Now, we’ll also have somebody on our staff that is completely fluent, whoever that may be.”
Clearly, that’ll be Vizquel, who can communicate lots of things from experience to a team that includes a number of Spanish-speaking players. He also might be able to impart a thing or two about playing shortstop to a youngster like Jose Iglesias.
A 46-year-old native of Venezuela, Vizquel played 24 big-league seasons, and more than 2,700 games at shortstop, winning 11 Gold Glove awards.
Vizquel joins a coaching staff that includes holdovers Jeff Jones as pitching coach and Gene Lamont as bench coach, as well as at least three newcomers. Reports Sunday had Wally Joyner joining the Tigers as hitting coach, and Mick Billmeyer added as the bullpen coach. Both were with the Phillies last season.
The Tigers have one coaching role left open, which could be an assistant hitting coach, or another role at Ausmus’ discretion.