Tony Franklin back for fifth season as Thunder manager
Reached at his home in Los Angeles, Calif., the manager was happy to remain in the Yankees’ organization, even if it meant not moving upward, something he has repeatedly expressed his desire to do.
“I’m happy to be coming back,” he said. “I really enjoy being there. I’ve said it before: Working in Trenton and living there for four years, this being my fifth, it’s not a bad deal. It’s not bad.
“Some people may look at it as being stagnant and whatnot, but I don’t look at it that way.”
Just because he’s happy to be coming back, however, doesn’t mean he didn’t look elsewhere.
After the season ended, he told Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Mark Newman and farm director Pat Roessler that he was continuing to try to find an open job in the big leagues, and that he would be sending his resume to clubs with vacancies.
“I sent out some resumes and made some contacts, and nothing happened,” he explained. “That’s baseball, and I understand that’s how baseball goes. I’m just fortunate enough that I’ve got a place to come back to. Some guys may not have a place to come back to.”
Also returning to the Thunder for 2011 is Tommy Phelps, the team’s pitching coach for the last two seasons.
When it came to his pitching coach, Franklin couldn’t lavish enough praise.
“I cannot tell you and say enough good adjectives about Tommy Phelps,” he said. “What a guy. One of the nicest men I’ve known in baseball, one of the nicest men I’ve known, period.”
Oh, and he can coach a little, too.
Under Phelps, Trenton pitchers have fanned 2,235 hitters over two seasons and have accrued a combined ERA of 3.60.
“Very knowledgeable. Does everything he can to get the pitchers to be better pitchers, and gets the most out of them,” Franklin continued.
Taking the place of hitting coach Frank Menechino, who has taken a role with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, is Julius Matos, who filled the same role with the club in 2008.
He was High-A Tampa’s hitting coach for the last two seasons, and has a history with Franklin that dates back to when both were members of the Padres organization.
“Julius has been there before with me. He’s been on a championship team, so he certainly knows what it takes to, on a daily basis, prepare to play the game.”
Rounding out the 2011 field staff is Justin Pope, who pitched for the Thunder in parts of four seasons. He spent last season getting his feet wet as a coach with the Staten Island Yankees, the organization’s Short-Season affiliate.
“He’s out there trying to earn his spurs, like the majority of us have done who have been in this industry and coaching for a while,” Franklin said, referring to Pope.
“What I think he’s going to bring, and what I think the most important element of any coach, is character. ... I’m very excited about him being on our staff.”
Tim Lentych returns for his third season as the team’s trainer, and Kaz Manabe joins the staff as the strength and conditioning coach.
Manabe spent the last two seasons in the same role with the Charleston RiverDogs, the Yankees’ Low-A affiliate.