PEORIA, IL - The Peoria Chiefs and St. Louis Cardinals have announced the 2017 Chiefs field staff with new manager Chris Swauger taking over for Joe Kruzel. Pitching coach Dernier Orozco returns for the third season in a row while Donnie Ecker will be the hitting coach. Athletic Trainer Dan Martin, also returns to the Chiefs staff Frank Spinelli is the new strength and conditioning coach.
Swauger, 30, led the Johnson City Cardinals to a 39-29 record last season and the Appalachian League Championship. The Cardinals finished in first place in the regular season before beating Elizaebethton in the first round and sweeping Burlington in the Appalachian League Finals. They led the Appalachian League in batting average, on-base percentage and doubles while finishing second in runs scored.
Swauger also managed Johnson City in 2015 as the Cardinals finished with a 27-38 record on a team that featured 2016 Chiefs Magneuris Sierra, Edmundo Sosa, Eli Alvarez and Ryan Helsley. Swauger retired as a player during the 2014 season and transitioned immediately into coaching as the Johnson City hitting coach on another Championship team.
As a player Swauger played seven seasons in the Cardinals organization after being drafted in the 26th round of the 2008 draft out of The Citadel. He appeared in 613 games with a career average of .277 and 62 home runs, reaching as high as the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds in 2012 & 2013. Swauger played in the Midwest League for Quad Cities in 2009 batting .298 with four homers, 10 doubles, 22 RBI and 28 runs scored in 31 games. He won a New-York Penn League title as a player with Batavia in 2008 and a Texas League title with Springfield in 2012. He hit three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs against Tulsa including the game-winner in the 10th inning.
Orozco returns to the Chiefs for his third season as pitching coach after a stint this fall in the Arizona Fall League. In 2016 Orozco helped the Chiefs to the playoffs for the second year in a row with a team ERA of 3.57 and a franchise record 1177 strikeouts. In 2015 his pitching staff led the MWL with a then-team record 1149 strikeouts while posting the 4th best ERA in the league at 3.32. The 2015 Chiefs also racked up the second most shutouts in the league with 15, falling just short of the team record. Before joining the Chiefs, Orozco was the pitching coach in back-to-back seasons with the short-season State College Spikes in the New York-Penn League. In 2014 the Spikes won the NYPL Championship and finished second in the league as a pitching staff with a 2.97 ERA. The Spikes were also third in strikeouts, second in saves, second in shutouts and allowed the third least amount of home runs. In 2013 the Spikes made it to the NYPL Finals with a league-best 2.80 ERA under Orozco's leadership.
A native of Venezuela, the 35-year-old has coached at four different levels in 11 seasons in the Cardinals organization. From 2006-2008 he coached with the Cardinals in the Venezuelan Summer League and returned to the VSL in 2010. In 2009 and 2011 he coached the Gulf Coast League Cardinals before moving up to Dann Bilardello's Batavia staff in 2012. Orozco pitched six seasons in the Boston Red Sox organization. He posted an ERA of 1.88 in the VSL in 2002 and went 4-2 in 14 games for the 2003 GCL Red Sox.
Ecker joins the Chiefs after one season as the hitting coach with the Advanced-A Palm Beach Cardinals and two seasons overall in the Cardinals organization. Prior to being the hitting coach last year, Ecker was Palm Beach's fourth coach for the 2015 season. Ecker was the head coach at Los Altos High School in California, his alma mater, and an assistant coach at Bakersfield College before joining the Cardinals in 2015. As a player he was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 22nd round of the 2007 draft out of Lewis and Clark State College. He played two professional seasons in the Rangers organizations with stops in the Arizona Rookie League and with Spokane in the Northwest League. He also played two seasons of independent ball in the Frontier League before getting into coaching. A native of Bakersfield, CA, Ecker now resides in Palm Beach, FL.
Martin returns to the Chiefs as the Athletic Trainer. Prior to joining the Chiefs, Martin spent three seasons with the State College Spikes in the New York-Penn League and was named the 2015 NYPL Athletic Trainer of the Year. Prior to that he was the Athletic Trainer in 2012 for the Johnson City Cardinals in the Appalachian League. A native of Portland, Oregon, Martin earned his degree while also playing baseball at Central Methodist College in Fayette, MO. Before joining the Cardinals he was a Graduate Assistant at West Texas A&M working with the baseball team and he also worked in independent baseball with Amarillo in the American Association.
Spinelli is in his second year with the Cardinals after serving as the strength and conditioning coach for the State College Spikes in 2016. He has previous work experience as a strength and conditioning coach with the New York Giants, Buffalo Bills and in college at Montclair State, Holy Cross, Springfield College and the University of Georgia.
Tickets and Promotions:
Season ticket packages and group tickets for the 2017 season are currently on sale by calling 309-680-4000. The 2016 season kicks off April 6 in Burlington, Iowa with the home opener against the Bees set for Saturday, April 8 at 6:30 p.m.
Promotions, giveaways, theme nights and daily specials will be announced later in the offseason. All game times and promotions are subject to change throughout the offseason. Fans can keep up with all Chiefs news during the offseason online at www.peoriachiefs.com and on twitter: @PeoriaChiefs.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.