COMSTOCK PARK, MI - The Detroit Tigers today announced that former Whitecaps' catcher Andrew Graham has been promoted from Short-Season Connecticut to manage the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2014. He is the first former Whitecaps' player to become the Whitecaps' manager.
Graham replaces Larry Parrish, who spent one year at the helm of the Whitecaps and will move to Class AAA Toledo, where he spent eight seasons managing during the last two decades, for 2014.
A native of Sydney, Australia, Graham was drafted by the Tigers in 2003 as a catcher. He played in 26 games for the Whitecaps in 2004 (.253 batting average) and 32 games in 2005 (.190 batting average) before advancing to Class A-Advanced Lakeland, Class AA Erie and finally Class AAA Toledo in 2007. In 2009 and 2010, Graham served as a coach for the rookie Gulf Coast League Tigers. In 2011, at the age of 29, he earned his first managerial assignment with the short-season Class A Connecticut Tigers. He spent three years there, compiling a 107-117 record.
"I'm very excited to be named manager of the West Michigan Whitecaps," Graham said. "It's an amazing place and it has always created a great playing and viewing atmosphere. I'm excited to start a new experience and do my best to develop the players' talents and work toward the goal of becoming champions."
Tigers' Director of Minor League Operations Dan Lunetta said he's confident Graham is well-prepared for the position.
"After three years managing our Connecticut affiliate, we believe Andrew is ready to take the helm and advance to the Whitecaps," Lunetta said. "He has worked diligently and prepared himself well for the opportunity to advance to the next managerial step in our system. We're also very pleased that for the first time, a former Whitecaps player as a Tiger will be managing the club. West Michigan is a very special place to play and work and we know Andrew is looking forward to returning to Grand Rapids with great anticipation."
Whitecaps' Vice President Jim Jarecki said he looks forward to having Graham return to West Michigan as a manager.
"Andrew was definitely a player that you could look at and see that he had the make-up to manage once his playing days were over," Jarecki said. "Being the first former Whitecap to come back to manage in West Michigan is a great opportunity for him and I know that the Tigers are confident in his leadership skills to manage at this level."
The Tigers also announced that Nelson Santovenia will be joining the Whitecaps as hitting coach, and that pitching coach Mike Henneman will return to the team for a second season. T.J. Obergefell will join the staff as Athletic Trainer.
Santovenia, a native of Cuba, was a Major League catcher for seven seasons after being a first-round draft pick of the Montreal Expos in 1982 out of the University of Miami. He played for the Expos from 1987 to 1991, then for the White Sox in 1992 and the Royals in 1993. He has spent the last two seasons as hitting coach of the GCL Tigers.
Henneman is entering his second year as a professional pitching coach. He spent 10 years pitching in the Major Leagues for Detroit (1987-1995), Houston (1995), and Texas (1996), and was named to the American League All-Star team in 1989. He amassed a career 57-42 record with 193 saves and a 3.21 ERA.
The Whitecaps will open the 2014 home season on Tuesday, April 8 at 6:35 p.m. against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Season and group tickets are on sale now; individual game tickets will go on sale next month.