Yankees set 2017 Thunder coaching staff
Mitchell, who managed the team to an 87-55 record and berth in the Eastern League Championship Series in 2016, will be joined by Pitching Coach Jose Rosado, Hitting Coach Tom Slater, Bullpen Coach JD Closser, Defensive Coach Lino Diaz, Athletic Trainer Jimmy Downam, and Strength & Conditioning Coach Anthony Velazquez.
"I am looking forward to returning," said Manager Bobby Mitchell. "We had lots of success last year because of my coaches, players, front office staff, and the great fan base in Trenton. I look forward to being part of it again in 2017."
The Thunder made their sixth appearance in 23 seasons in the Eastern League Championship Series under Mitchell during the 2016 campaign. The 87 regular season victories is the second-highest total in franchise history and the team's winning percentage of .613 was the third-best mark all-time. Three members of the team went on to make their Major League debut during the season with INF/OF Tyler Austin and RHP Jonathan Holder reaching the Yankees in 2016, while RHP Vicente Campos made his major league debut following a mid-season trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Pitching Coach Jose Rosado returns for his third season with the Thunder. The team has ranked in the top-3 in ERA in the Eastern League in each of his first two seasons as Pitching Coach. In 2016, the Thunder led the league in strikeouts with 1,239 and set the franchise record for lowest team ERA in a season with a 3.12 mark that led the league by 0.36. In his tenure, Rosado has presided over a combined no-hitter thrown by Ronald Herrera and Jonathan Holder on April 26, 2016, and nearly a dozen pitchers who have already gone on to big league careers. The Puerto Rican native was twice named to the American League All-Star team in 1997 and 1999 as a left-handed starter while with the Kansas City Royals.
Tom Slater returns to Trenton as the Hitting Coach after spending the 2015 and 2016 seasons as the Hitting Coach for High-A Tampa. Entering his ninth season as a coach or manager in the Yankees system, Slater served as the Hitting Coach for the Thunder in 2012; aiding a club that led the Eastern League in home runs and slugging percentage.
Bullpen Coach JD Closser returns to the Thunder for a second season in 2017. A former major league catcher with the Colorado Rockies, Closser contributed to one of the most successful regular seasons in the Thunder's history. Closser oversaw the development of catcher Kyle Higashioka as well as aided in the development of a pitching staff that set the franchise record for ERA in a season and led the Eastern League in strikeouts.
Lino Diaz spent the past two seasons as the Defensive Coach for the Gulf Coast League Yankees 1. Diaz enters his fourth season as a coach in the Yankees system following 11 seasons with the Cleveland Indians in various roles and the 2013 and 2014 seasons as the Cultural Development Manager for the Chicago White Sox, traveling with the Major League club for all games as part of the dugout staff. A native of Panama, Diaz will focus on infield defense while coaching with the Thunder. Diaz was a 30th round selection of the Kansas City Royals in the 1993 Amateur Draft and batted .284 in five seasons in the Royals minor league system.
Athletic Trainer Jimmy Downam was born in Somers Point, NJ and spent the last three years as the Trainer for the Single-A Charleston Riverdogs. Downham enters his fifth season as a trainer with the Yankees, joining the Staten Island Yankees in 2013. Downham spent the 2012 season as an intern with the Philadelphia Phillies organization at the team's rehabilitation facility in Clearwater, Fla. A 2009 and 2012 graduate of Liberty University (Va.), Downam resides in Lynchburg, Va.
Anthony Velazquez spent the previous three seasons as the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Charleston Riverdogs. Velazquez spent the 2013 season in the same position with the Clearwater Threshers, a Single-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Prior to his positions in minor league baseball, Velazquez held strength and conditioning positions at the University of Michigan, University of South Florida and University of Maryland.
The 2017 season, the 24th in franchise history, will begin at ARM & HAMMER Park on April 13 when the Thunder host the Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox) at 7:00 p.m. Single game tickets will go on sale in March 2017. For more information on the Thunder, visit www.TrentonThunder.com or call 609-394-3300.