Greenville, SC - In conjunction with the Boston Red Sox, the Greenville Drive have announced their coaching staff for the 2019 season, and the staff will feature four familiar faces as the Drive look to bring a South Atlantic League championship back to Greenville.
Iggy Suarez will return for his second season as the Drive's manager, and pitching coach Bob Kipper also returns to the Drive coaching staff in the same role. Nelson Paulino is set to begin his second stint as the Drive's hitting coach in 2019.
Strength and conditioning coach Ricky De Luna will return to the Drive staff in 2019 as well.
"Coming off the Red Sox 2018 World Series championship, it's an exciting time to be part of the Boston organization, and we are thrilled to welcome Iggy, Bob, Nelson, and Ricky back to the Greenville community as they work to produce more future major league stars at Fenway Park," said Drive Owner and Team President Craig Brown. "They each have extensive track records of success in the Red Sox player development system, and the many talented young players coming to Greenville in 2019 are extremely fortunate to be working with such a diverse and accomplished staff."
Suarez piloted the Drive to a second place finish in the Southern Division second half standings and 64 total wins in 2018. Under his leadership, the Drive placed four players in the 2018 South Atlantic League All Star Game, including outfielder Victor Acosta and pitchers Kutter Crawford, Devon Fisher and Denyi Reyes.
The 37-year old Suarez joined the Drive following two seasons managing the Lowell Spinners, Boston's short-season affiliate, for two seasons. He led the Spinners to 47-29 record and the New York-Penn League's Stedler Division title in his first season as manager in 2016.
Prior to his appointment as manager in Lowell, Suarez served as the Spinners hitting coach in 2015. A 24th round selection by the Red Sox from Texas State in 2003, he played seven seasons in the Boston organization, reaching AAA-Pawtucket in 2009. He also played four seasons playing in the independent Atlantic League from 2010-2013 before his coaching career.
"I couldn't be more excited to return to Greenville and Fluor Field in 2019," said Suarez. "Greenville is a truly special place with a premier facility, a tireless front office staff and a dedicated fanbase that provides us with an incredible amount of support on a nightly basis. I am looking forward to working with Bob, Nelson, and Ricky as we help our group of young, talented players achieve their goals of playing in Fenway Park, while also helping the Red Sox continue to compete for World Series championships."
Kipper had an extremely successful 2018 campaign as the Drive pitching coach. Under his guidance, Denyi Reyes was named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year, the first time a Drive pitcher has won the prestigious league award in franchise history. In addition, Kipper saw four of his starting pitchers in Reyes, Kutter Crawford, Enmanuel De Jesus and Jhonathan Diaz, each strike out at least 100 batters in 2018.
The 54-year old previously served as the Drive's pitching coach in 2005-2006, as well as 2008-2009. Kipper was the pitching coach for the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox in 2015-2017, and he spent 2010-2014 as the Portland Sea Dogs pitching coach. He also served on the Red Sox major league staff as the bullpen coach in 2002.
A former first round pick (8th overall) by the California Angels in 1982 out of high school, Kipper spent eight seasons in the major leagues, with seven of those coming with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His best season came in 1989 with the Pirates, where he logged a 2.93 ERA in 52 appearances out of the bullpen.
Paulino begins his second stint as the Drive's hitting coach after previously serving in that role in 2014-2015. During his tenure in Greenville, Paulino worked closely with Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers, both of whom played crucial roles in the Boston Red Sox winning the 2018 World Series.
The 44-year old spent the past three seasons with the Salem Red Sox as hitting coach. The 2018 season will be Paulino's 21st in the Red Sox organization. He has previously served as hitting coach for the Lowell Spinners in 2012 and Boston's Dominican Summer League team from 2008-11 and 2001-02. In addition, he was the DSL club's bench coach in 2007 and manager from 2003-06.
De Luna begins his second season in charge of strength and conditioning. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 2012-2017, and he served as a strength and conditioning coach for the Marine Corps during that time. He also worked at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO in 2017. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio.
"Announcing our coaching staff always means that we are one step closer to baseball season, and the announcement is made even better by having Iggy, Bob, Nelson, and Ricky returning to Greenville," said Drive General Manager Eric Jarinko. "With these four at the helm, we are looking forward to another exciting year of baseball at Fluor Field that will eventually lead to these talented young players contributing to World Series championships in Boston in the near future."
Opening Night at Fluor Field is Thursday, April 4th at 7:05 as the Drive begin their 14th season in Downtown Greenville by hosting the West Virginia Power.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.