When new Quad-Cities River Bandits manager Ray Hernandez suggests that early April can’t here soon enough, he isn’t just referencing the weather.
Introduced Thursday as the new manager of the Midwest League team, Hernandez is anxious to begin his first managerial assignment in the Houston Astros organization.
"I can’t thank the Astros enough for the belief and trust they have in me," Hernandez said. "The staff I get to work with is tremendous, and I can’t wait for the sun to come out and get the squad out there."
The River Bandits open their 140-game schedule on April 4 with a home game against Burlington, about a month after Hernandez begins working with players who will eventually fill the Quad-Cities roster at Houston’s spring-training complex in West Palm Beach, Florida.
He was named by the Astros to manage Quad-Cities after spending the 2018 season as the development coach for Houston’s Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.
At Fresno he was part of a staff led by Rodney Linares, a 12th-year manager in the Astros farm system who has since left the organization to become the third-base coach of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Hernandez also learned there from veteran pitching coach Dyar Millar and hitting coach Darryl Robinson.
"That staff was the best in the business," Hernandez said. "I was happy to see Rodney get an opportunity with the Rays, well deserved. He gave me a few opportunities to run the game as a manager, coach third and make a couple of lineups. To be able to get that experience was great."
A 30-year-old native of Sacramento who played collegiately at Cosumnes River College and Cal State-Fullerton, Hernandez was a 48th-round draft pick of the Diamondbacks in 2011. He pitched two seasons in Arizona’s farm system, reaching the California League while working 205.2 innings in 45 appearances.
Before joining the Astros organization, he coached for one season at Elk Grove High School in California before working three years as the pitching coach at Cosumnes River College.
With Quad-Cities, Hernandez replaces Mickey Storey, who was formally named Thursday as the manager of Houston’s new Triple-A Round Rock affiliate after leading the River Bandits to an 81-59 record last season.
Hernandez will be joined in the Quad-Cities by pitching staff Erick Abreu and hitting coach Rafael Pena. The team’s athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach will be named at a later date.
Abreu is beginning his sixth season as a pitching coach in the Houston organization. The 35-year old from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, pitched for 12 seasons professionally in the Astros and Yankees farm systems.
The River Bandits will be Abreu’s first full-season assignment with Houston after working as the pitching coach last season for a Tri-City team that won the New York-Penn League and led that league in strikeouts. He previously coached in the Dominican Summer League, the Gulf Coast League and at short-season Greeneville.
Pena is the only returning member from the River Bandits’ 2018 coaching staff. He worked last season as the development coach with Quad-Cities, joining the Astros after working two years as an assistant coach at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.
Graham Johnson, the River Bandits’ pitching coach last season, will serve in that same role on the staff at Double-A Corpus Christi, which will be managed for the second straight year by former Quad-Cities manager Omar Lopez.
Dillon Lawson, who spent last season as the River Bandits hitting coach, was named in January as the minor-league hitting coordinator for the New York Yankees organization.
Houston also announced its other minor-league managers Thursday.
Nate Shaver, the development coach at Buies Creek a year ago, will manage high-A Fayetteville, and Wladimir Still returns for his third season as the manager at rookie-level Gulf Coast.
Ozney Guillen, the youngest son of former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, was introduced as the manager of short-season Tri-City.