The new manager of the Mud Hens is not new to Toledo or to the Mud Hens.
Larry Parrish, the winningest manager in Toledo’s professional baseball history, will return to manage the Mud Hens in 2014.
He replaces Phil Nevin, whose contract was not renewed after three seasons in Toledo.
Leon “Bull” Durham will return for his 14th season as the Hens’ hitting coach, while Al Nipper will become the team’s pitching coach.
Last year’s pitching coach, A.J. Sager, will replace Nipper as the Tigers’ roving pitching coordinator, while trainer Matt Rankin has been promoted to Detroit’s major league staff as assistant athletic trainer. A replacement for Rankin in Toledo has not been named.
Parrish said having managed the Mud Hens for eight different seasons makes his return to Toledo “comfortable.”
“I’m familiar with everything about Toledo — the town, the team, the front office, the grounds crew,” Parrish said. “It makes it easier to go to a place where you are familiar with things like what restaurants to eat at and what golf courses to play.”
Parrish first managed the Mud Hens in May of 1994 when he replaced Joe Sparks. He also led the Hens from 2003-10, except for the 2007 season, and led Toledo to back-to-back Governors’ Cup titles in 2005 and 2006.
He was named the International League manager of the year in 2005, as well as the Sporting News minor league manager of the year after guiding the Mud Hens to their first International League championship since 1967.
Parrish has 569 wins in Toledo, 29 more than Cal Ermer in second place. Parrish’s 569-551 record is good for a .508 winning percentage, making him one of only four managers in the Glass City’s professional history that is above the .500 mark.
Parrish, who was voted into the International League’s Hall of Fame this year, left Toledo in 2011 to become the hitting coach of the Atlanta Braves. He was fired after one season there, but in 2013 he return to the Tigers organization to manage in Lo-A West Michigan.
The Whitecaps posted a 69-70 record under Parrish this past season.
“I don’t think I’m too different [after being gone for three years],” said Parrish, who also managed in Detroit in 1998-99. “After this past year, I think I’m a lot more patient. Hopefully I won’t have to be as patient here.”
Mud Hens president and general manager Joe Napoli said in a release the team is “thrilled” to have Parrish return.
“As a manager, he’s a great teacher and I know we’ll see improvement in player development,” Napoli said. “For our fans, he’s always been a favorite. They will be glad to welcome him back.”
Parrish said he was excited to get the chance to work again with Durham.
“He is one of the reasons I agreed to come back,” Parrish said. “I always enjoyed working with him.
“I know we’re on the same page, and I know we have the same goal: To make our guys better hitters.”
Sager, a University of Toledo product who spent six years with the Mud Hens, said it was not an easy decision to take the job as the Tigers’ roving pitching instructor for the minor leagues.
“It is technically a promotion, but it wasn’t an easy decision because of how much I enjoyed being the pitching coach of the Mud Hens,” Sager said. “But this job will present new challenges and new opportunities, and at this point of my career I thought it was a good move.”
Sager’s new job means he will work with all of Detroit’s minor-league pitchers rather than just the members of the Mud Hens staff.
“As a minor-league pitching coach you work one-on-one with the guys on your team,” he explained. “Now instead of having a hand in developing 12 or 13 guys, I will have a hand in developing all of the guys.
“I have a more broad role, lending support to pitching coaches in the organization. But my goal is still the same: To develop major-league pitchers for the Detroit Tigers.”