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Valentin to return as TinCaps' skipper
11/20/2012 8:37 PM ET
FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Manager Jose Valentin and pitching coach Willie Blair will return to the Fort Wayne TinCaps in 2013 as the team -- in conjunction with the San Diego Padres -- announced its field staff.

Former Major Leaguer Morgan Burkhart will begin his first season as hitting coach, while athletic trainer Ricky Huerta will join the club for his first season in Fort Wayne.

Valentin, 46, led the TinCaps to the Midwest League Championship Series in a 74-win campaign in his managerial debut season. The veteran of 16 big league seasons was named the Class A Manager of the Year by Baseball America in his first year on the bench. He sent three players to the Midwest League All-Star Game and had two named as postseason All-Stars, marking the first time Fort Wayne placed multiple players on that list since 2003. He also managed Yeison Asencio, the first Midwest League batting champion in the 20-year history of the franchise.

The Manati, Puerto Rico, native finished his Major League career with a .243 batting average, 249 homers and 816 RBIs. In addition to playing for the Brewers, Valentin spent time with the White Sox, Dodgers and Mets before retiring in 2009.

Blair, who spent 12 seasons in the Major Leagues with eight teams, will lead Fort Wayne's pitching staff for a third consecutive year. During the 2012 season, he oversaw the development of relief pitcher Matt Stites, who was named the Class A relief pitcher of the year by Baseball America. Blair, a native of Paintsville, Ky., and Morehead State University graduate, also guided Adys Portillo -- who was 3-11 with a 7.11 ERA in 2011 -- to a 6-6 record with a 1.87 ERA in 2012 that netted the pitcher a July promotion to Double-A San Antonio. The TinCaps' staff ERA of 3.59 was fifth-best in the 16-team Midwest League.

Burkhart replaces former big league outfielder Jacque Jones as hitting coach. The 40-year-old Burkhart is a native of St. Louis who played for the Red Sox (2000-01) and Royals (2003) during his Major League career. Most recently, he served as manager of the Windy City ThunderBolts in the independent Frontier League. Prior managerial experience also includes three seasons at the helm of the independent Calgary Vipers.

Huerta served as trainer for the Arizona League Padres last season. The 26-year-old Los Angeles native will be entering his fourth season with the organization.

The 2013 season marks the 15th consecutive year of Fort Wayne's affiliation with San Diego.

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