(AKRON, OHIO) January 17, 2018 - The Cleveland Indians have announced the organization's staff alignment within its Player Development System for the 2018 season and the Akron RubberDucks' field staff is a mixture of new and familiar faces.
New manager Tony Mansolino, who was the RubberDucks hitting coach in 2015, will be joined by pitching coach Rigo Beltran and hitting coach Kevin Howard, both of whom worked in the same capacity under Mansolino in 2017 at High Class A Lynchburg. The staff helped lead the Hillcats to a Carolina League co-championship and Mansolino was named Carolina League Manager of the Year. Joining them will be bench coach Dennis Malave, who was with the Arizona League Indians the last seven seasons. Returning from 2017 are athletic trainer Jeremy Heller and strength and conditioning coach Paul Synenkyj.
Mansolino, 35, becomes the 17th manager in club history. He follows Mark Budzinski who managed the team to a 69-71 record and third-place finish. Budzinski was added to the Major League coaching staff for the 2018 season.
"I am excited to be back in Akron," said Mansolino. "Without a doubt, Akron is the best affiliate and experience in the Eastern League and one of the premier places to be in all of Minor League Baseball. I am certainly looking forward to leading the RubberDucks in 2018!"
Mansolino led Lynchburg to an 87-52 record in 2017. He made his managerial debut in 2016 with the Class A Lake County Captains, where he led them to a 72-68 record. Prior to joining the RubberDucks as its hitting coach in 2015, Mansolino worked in the same capacity for the Carolina Mudcats in 2014, Lake County in 2013, and Short-Season A Mahoning Valley in 2011 and 2012, where he was named to the 2012 New York-Penn League All-Star coaching staff.
The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Mansolino in the 26th round of the 2005 MLB Draft out of Vanderbilt University. He played professionally for six seasons from 2005-10 after being selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 26th round of the 2005 MLB Draft out of Vanderbilt University. He was in the Pirates' system from 2005-08, and briefly with the Philadelphia Phillies system in 2008, before playing independent ball in 2009-10. He finished with a .231 career average with 19 home runs and 173 runs batted in in 457 games.
Mansolino resides in Nashville with his wife Adrianna, and sons Jackson (3) and Maddox (four months). His father, Doug, is the Field Coordinator with the Phillies.
2018 RubberDucks Field Staff Announced (page 2)
Pitching coach Beltran, 48, joins the RubberDucks after spending the last two seasons with Lynchburg. In 2017, he also served as pitching coach for Mexico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. In 2015, he split time as a pitching Coach between the AZL Indians and Lynchburg after spending 2014 as the pitching coach for Lake County. Prior to that, he spent seven seasons as a coach in the Cincinnati Reds' farm system. He spent four seasons as the Advanced Class A club pitching coach (Lynchburg in 2010, Bakersfield 2011-13) and in 2009, Beltran worked as the pitching coach at Class AA Carolina, before which he spent a pair of seasons in the same role for the GCL Reds.
During his playing career, began his 16-year professional playing career with the St. Louis organization after he was selected by the Cardinals in the 1991 free agent draft. He appeared in parts of five seasons with St. Louis (1997), New York Mets (1998-99), Colorado (1999-2000) and Montreal (2004), finishing his playing career in 2004 with a 94-74 record.
Beltran attended the University of Wyoming from 1990-91 before being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in '91. He earned an Associate's Degree from Mesa Junior College in 1989. He and wife, Lauri, have four sons and reside in Delray Beach, Florida.
Hitting coach Howard, 36, joins Akron after spending the 2017 season as Lynchburg's hitting coach. This is fourth season in the Indians' organization, having spent 2015 and 2016 in the same role with Mahoning Valley and Lake County, respectively. In 2015, Howard led a Scrappers offense that finished tied for third in the New York-Penn League in batting (.259) and doubles (133), and was 5th in hits (660).
Howard played professionally for 12 seasons with the Reds, Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, Mariners, Padres, Blue Jays, and Cardinals organizations and he retired at the end of the 2014 season, having spent the final two seasons of his playing career in independent ball. He was originally drafted in the fifth round by Cincinnati in 2003.
Howard has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management from the University of Miami, where played collegiately for three seasons, winning a National Championship in 2001.
Bench coach Malave, 38, is in his 14th season overall with the Indians and joins the RubberDucks after spending the last seven seasons with the AZL Indians' hitting coach. In 2010 he was a coach with Mahoning Valley and he spent the 2007 & 2008 seasons as the bullpen catcher/batting practice pitcher and coaching assistant with the Major League team. He also coached with the Gulf Coast Indians in 2006 and the Burlington Indians in 2005.
As a player, Malave was originally signed by the Indians into the club's Venezuelan Academy in May of 1997. He spent parts of eight seasons in the Indians Player Development System from 1997-2004, reaching as far as Double-A Akron in 2001, but his career was curtailed by a nagging wrist injury. He finished third in the Appalachian League with 27 steals in 1998 and concluded his minor league career with a .255 average in 472 games with 22 home runs and 164 runs batted in. He resides in Goodyear, Arizona, with his wife Carolina. He has a daughter, Josuannis, and two sons, Josue and Joseph.
The 2018 season will mark trainer Jeremy Heller's fifth in Akron and his 14th overall in the Indians organization. Last season in Akron, Heller was named the 2017 Eastern League Athletic Trainer of the Year by Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) He was also the Athletic Trainer of the Year in the Carolina League in 2012. Strength and Conditioning Coach Paul Synenkyj is entering his eighth season in the Indians organization and second consecutive with Akron. Synenkyj oversees the team's strength and conditioning program. Synenkyj holds degrees in physical education from Cleveland State and Akron.
The Akron RubberDucks are the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. The 2018 season, powered by FirstEnergy, will be the franchise's 22nd since moving to Akron. The Home Opener is on Friday, April 13, at 6:35 p.m. vs. Trenton Thunder, while the regular season begins April 5 at 6 p.m. at the Altoona Curve.
For more information about the team, please visit the RubberDucks' website, www.akronrubberducks.com, Facebook page www.facebook.com/AkronRubberDucks, Twitter feed @AkronRubberDuck, and Instagram at @akronrubberducks. Tickets packages for the 2018 season can be ordered online or by calling 330-253-5151 Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.