OKLAHOMA CITY - The Houston Astros and Oklahoma City RedHawks have announced the 2014 RedHawks field staff, led by manager Tony DeFrancesco. Hitting coach Leon Roberts returns for a third season, and pitching coach Steve Webber will also return for a second consecutive year.
The only new addition to the team's coaching staff will be Jeff Murphy, who will serve as a catching coach and development specialist.
Last season DeFrancesco guided the RedHawks to a Pacific Coast League leading 82-62 record and an American Southern Division title. After posting a 68-75 record during his first season in Oklahoma City in 2011, DeFrancesco has led the team to a 160-127 mark the past two seasons combined.
2014 marks DeFrancesco's 20th season as a minor league manger, and throughout his career he has amassed 1,317 wins. In 10 seasons in the Pacific Coast League, DeFrancesco has captured seven division titles and three league championships.
He served as Astros interim manager for the final 41 games of 2012. The team went 16-25 overall but had a strong finish, going 15-15 during the last month of the season.
Roberts has successfully mentored RedHawks hitters each of the past two seasons. Despite having a youthful roster in 2013, the RedHawks still ranked in the upper half of the league in most offensive categories and struck out the third-fewest amount of any PCL squad. He was at the forefront a dramatic turnaround in 2012, as the team batting average jumped 22 up points from 2011 in addition to hitting 59 more home runs and scoring 145 more times.
Prior to joining the Astros in 2012, Roberts spent 13 seasons in the Atlanta Braves organization, primarily as a hitting instructor. He has also managed 839 games throughout his coaching career. The former outfielder spent 11 seasons in the Major Leagues with six teams from 1974 to 1984.
Webber's impact was clearly evident during his first season with the RedHawks. Under his guidance in 2013, the team allowed the second-fewest hits and third-fewest home runs in the Pacific Coast League. The RedHawks also reduced their team ERA by 0.68 from the previous season.
Before joining the Astros organization last season, Webber spent nine years as a pitching coach in San Diego's system and was honored with the Padres' 2008 Jack Krol Award for contributions to player development. He is also a former head coach at the University of Georgia and led the Bulldogs to the 1990 National Championship.
Murphy is set to begin his first season as an Astros minor league instructor. He spent 2013 as a bullpen catcher and catching coach with the Astros Major League club. Murphy served in a similar capacity with the St. Louis Cardinals for 12 seasons (2000-2011) and was part of World Series Championship clubs in 2006 and 2011. In addition to his role with the RedHawks this season, Murphy will also work with catchers throughout the organization.
Athletic trainer Mike Freer returns for a fourth straight year in Oklahoma City. Freer enters his 25th season with the Astros organization, as well as his 18th at the Triple-A level. He was named the Minor League Athletic Trainer of the Year by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society in 2003.
Alex Pounds will return for his second season as strength and conditioning coach. Pounds previously served in the same capacity with Astros affiliates in Lancaster (High-A) and Corpus Christi (Double-A) prior to his appointment in Oklahoma City.
The RedHawks open the 2014 season Thursday, April 3 in Round Rock and begin their home slate on Friday, April 11 against New Orleans. For ticket packages or to reserve a group outing, call (405) 218-1000 or visit okcredhawks.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.