A doubling of dollars spent on player development by the Houston Astros this year will trickle down to the Quad-Cities River Bandits clubhouse at Modern Woodmen Park.
The new parent club of the River Bandits announced a coaching staff Friday which includes a combination of experienced minor-league coaches and former major-league talent.
Omar Lopez will begin his sixth season as a manager in the Astros farm system as the new skipper of the Quad-Cities club. His staff will include pitching coach Dave Borkowski, hitting coach Joel Chimelis and development specialist Vince Coleman.
Borkowski pitched seven seasons in the major leagues for the Tigers, Orioles and Astros, while Coleman, the 1985 National League Rookie of the Year, spent 13 seasons with the Cardinals, Mets, Royals, Mariners, Reds and Tigers.
Lopez, Borkowski and Chimelis join the River Bandits from other clubs within the Houston organization. Coleman is one of four development specialists hired by the Astros who have been assigned to the organization’s top four affiliates.
Coleman’s work with the River Bandits will include outfield and baserunning development, and the plan is for him to be with the Quad-Cities club for homestands. When the team is out of town, the six-time major league stolen base leader will work as a scout and roving instructor within the Houston organization.
“It’s a somewhat unique set-up, but it shows the emphasis on development that is taking place throughout the Astros organization,” River Bandits general manager Stefanie Brown said. “We’re excited about the staff that Houston has sent us in the first year of our affiliation with them.”
In addition to Coleman and a group of six roving minor-league coordinators and instructors, the Astros also have hired Tom Lawless at Triple-A Oklahoma City and Morgan Ensburg at high-A Lancaster to oversee infield development, while Mark Bailey at Double-A Corpus Christi will oversee catching development within the organization.
Lopez, 36, managed short-season Greeneville in the Appalachian League the past two seasons. His teams combined for a 61-75 record, including a 36-32 mark in 2012. He previously spent two seasons as the manager of the Astros’ rookie-level Gulf Coast League team and one year as the manager of the Venezuelan Summer League Astros.
He also has worked as an international scout and instructor for the Houston organization since 1999, one year after a three-year career as an infielder in the White Sox and Diamondbacks’ farm systems ended.
Borkowski, 35, was the pitching coach at low-A Lexington last season and is beginning his fourth years as a coach in the Houston system after a 15-year playing career.
Chimelis, 45, is in his eighth year of work on the Astros’ minor-league staff, and he joins the River Bandits from Double-A Corpus Christi, where he served as the hitting coach in 2012 after serving in the same position at Lexington in the South Atlantic League in 2011.
Both Lopez and Borkowski spent time in the Midwest League as players.
Lopez hit .324 for South Bend in 1998, the last of his three seasons as an infielder in the White Sox and Diamondbacks’ organizations, while Borkowski pitched for West Michigan in 1997.
The Astros also have named Steve Miller as the River Bandits’ trainer and are continuing to work to fill a strength and conditioning coach’s position for the Quad-Cities club.