The Colorado Rockies announced several organizational changes Monday, including a brand new manager for the Tri-City Dust Devils for the first time since 2006.
The Rockies promoted Fred Ocasio, who had been the Dust Devils skipper for the past seven seasons, to the Rockies’ Class-A affiliate in Asheville (N.C.), where Ocasio once played as a minor leaguer.
“There are a lot of new ballparks (in the South Atlantic League), but Asheville is still the same. It’s a beautiful place,” said Ocasio, who served as Tri-City hitting coach from 2001-05. “I think it was time. I’ve been in Tri-City since 2001, and I really enjoyed my time there. At the same time, it was time for a change in atmosphere.”
Drew Saylor, 29, will become just the fourth Tri-City manager in franchise history, joining Stu Cole (2001), Ron Gideon (2002-05) and Ocasio. Saylor, a former outfielder, was a 13th-round draft choice by the Florida Marlins in 2006 and spent last season as the hitting coach for the Rockies’ rookie-league club in Grand Junction, Colo.
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“Drew is full of energy, and he’s a hard worker who loves the game,” Gideon said of the new Dust Devils’ skipper. “Last year was his first year (as a coach) and the kids just love him. He’s eager to learn and eager to listen. All he wants to do is for the kids to get better.”
Gideon was named one of the Rockies’ six Development Supervisors — a new position added this season by the organization — and will return to Tri-City in a leadership role that is highly responsible for the oversight and implementation of the Rockies’ development philosophies and practices.
“I’ll be behind the scenes, watching games from the stands,” Gideon said. “When you’re in the dugout managing or coaching, you get caught up in certain things and don’t get to see the whole game. This is a chance to add another coach and give kids all aspects of on-field and off-field view.”
Gideon said it also might provide another ear for players to bend if they need one.
“A lot of times, kids won’t get stuff off their chest because they’re worried about ruffling feathers with their manager or coaches,” Gideon said.
Gideon has served as the Rockies’ Roving Field Coordinator for the last five seasons, traveling between the organization’s six minor-league affiliates. Now, he’ll be able to call Tri-Cities home between the summer months of June and September.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here, and I enjoy working with the younger kids,” Gideon said.
Anthony Sanders, who served as Dust Devils’ hitting coach from 2007-2012, will get his first managing gig at Grand Junction. Dave Burba, the Tri-City pitching coach for the last two seasons, was promoted to the Class-A Modesto (Calif.) Nuts.
Frank Gonzales, who spent eight seasons as a player in the Detroit Tigers organization, will step in as the new Dust Devils’ pitching coach. Warren Schaeffer will replace Sanders as the new hitting coach.
Schaeffer, who spent the last six seasons as a player in the Rockies’ organization, made his professional debut with Tri-City after being drafted as a middle infielder out of Virginia Tech in 2007.
The Dust Devils will even get a new trainer — Casey Papas — with Andy Stover’s promotion to Assistant Rehabilitation Coordinator, a position based out of the Rockies’ spring training facility in Arizona.
Several former Dust Devils coaches also earned promotions Monday. Cole was promoted from manager of Class AAA Colorado Springs to the Rockies’ third-base coach.
Including Burba, three former Tri-City pitching coaches got moved up the ladder. Dave Schuler (2008) will jump from Class AA Tulsa to Colorado Springs, Darryl Scott (2009) moves from Modesto to Tulsa.
Doug Linton, the Dust Devils’ pitching coach from 2006-07, will remain the Rockies’ Head Pitching Coordinator.
Ocasio, a two-time Northwest League manager of the year, will join pitching coach Joey Eischen at Asheville. Eischen made his pro coaching debut in Tri-City in 2010 before earning a promotion.
“Joey and I get along really good. He’s really passionate about his pitchers,” Ocasio said.