10/09/09 5:30 PM EST
Five coaches invited back for 2010
First-base coach Van Slyke will not return to Tigers
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
The team announced Friday that it has invited back five of manager Jim Leyland's six coaches, from hitting coach Lloyd McClendon to pitching coach Rick Knapp, third-base coach Gene Lamont, bullpen coach Jeff Jones and infield coach Rafael Belliard.
The one coach who won't be back is first-base coach and outfield/baserunning instructor Andy Van Slyke, who "has decided to pursue other opportunities," according to a Tigers press release.
Van Slyke was one of Leyland's first hires when he took over the Tigers. He had told Leyland of his interest in coaching if Leyland ever got back into managing, and Leyland liked the idea of taking Van Slyke's passion and putting it to work on the staff.
That intensity showed in the work he did with Tigers outfielders, drilling them on fly balls in Spring Training and taking it into pregame batting practice. He was credited with helping Curtis Granderson mature as a center fielder and a baserunner, fostering the aggressiveness on the basepaths that led to back-to-back American Leagues triples titles.
"We wish him well," Leyland said Friday. "He worked his tail off. He's a former player of mine, and I have the utmost respect for him."
Van Slyke said Friday he's considering a return to radio and television work, which he was doing in St. Louis before he joined the Tigers. He also didn't rule out joining another organization to manage in the Minor Leagues to pursue his goal of a top job.
"I don't actually have a game plan yet," Van Slyke said, "but I'll come up with one."
Or, as he later said, "When one door closes, another one opens."
Asked about the decision, and how it came about, Van Slyke called it "irrelevant." However, he complimented the team for his time there.
"I've had a great time in Detroit, and the Tigers organization has treated me well," Van Slyke said.
Whatever he decides to do from here, Van Slyke isn't likely to break ties with Michigan. His son, Jared, is a safety and special teams player on the football squad at the University of Michigan, and he has taken advantage of any chance he gets to go to Ann Arbor and watch him play.
"They may have to see me in maize and blue instead of white," Van Slyke said.
Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said on Friday that while it "has not been totally decided" that the current coaches will all stay in their current roles -- after all, though they've all been invited back, they still have to accept -- he said that they'll "most likely" be looking for a first-base coach who can also coach outfield and baserunning.
That search isn't expected to go beyond the Tigers organization.
"I would say that this is 99.5 percent [certain] that this hire will come from within the organization," Leyland said. "That is the plan. Now, is there something that could fall out of the sky and change that? I guess there's a chance. I'm looking for a coach, but at this particular time I'm definitely not looking outside the organization."
If that stays the case, though Leyland didn't name any candidate, a likely one is Gene Roof, the Tigers' Minor League outfield and baserunning instructor. He was on former manager Sparky Anderson's staff as a coach from 1992-95, and is a longtime member of the organization.
McClendon's return was expected, though he had been subject to fan debate given the Tigers' offensive struggles much of the season. Dombrowski gave him credit for his work during his season-ending meeting with the media on Thursday.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.