Jared Sandberg will be breaking in a new crew of coaches this spring when the Durham Bulls come back as defending International League and Triple-A national champions.
Sandberg, who is returning for his fourth season as skipper of the Bulls, will be joined by Richard Knapp, Dan DeMent and Ben Johnson as coaches. They replace Ozzie Timmons and Kyle Snyder, who were promoted to the Triple-A Bulls’ Major League Baseball parent club, the Tampa Bay Rays, while Craig Albernaz, who began last season with the Bulls, got a managerial job with the Single-A Hudson Valley Renegades in Wappingers Falls, New York, another Rays’ farm team.
Knapp is taking over pitching coach duties from Timmons, while DeMent and Johnson will be field coaches.
Durham went 86-56 last season, its fourth-best record in franchise history. In the postseason, the Bulls went 7-2 as they won their second Triple-A National Championship, fifth Governors’ Cup and 13th International League South Division title.
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Sandberg, who is from Olympia, Washington, will be in his 10th season as a minor league manager as he’s worked his way up through the Rays’ farm system. His career mark is 533-462 (.536) while advancing to the postseason three times and capturing two league championships. During his first three seasons with the Bulls, the team has gone 224-206 (.521).
Knapp joins the Bulls with a wealth of coaching experience, most notably serving as the Detroit Tigers’ pitching coach from 2008 until midway through the 2011 season. He worked with three Cy Young Award winners while in Detroit, including Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. Knapp previously has served as a minor league pitching coordinator for the Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Dodgers.
DeMent earned a promotion to Triple-A after spending the last two seasons coaching for the Double-A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits. He’s entering his 10th season as a minor league coach, all coming in the Tampa Bay system. DeMent also has worked with Sandberg twice before — at rookie-level Princeton (W.Va.) in 2009 and Hudson Valley in 2012.
Johnson comes to Durham after spending the last three seasons as a scout with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He previously spent parts of three major league seasons with the San Diego Padres (2005-2006) and New York Mets (2007) and played through the end of the 2010 season. In 2005 he was named the San Diego Padres Minor League Player of the Year when he batted .312 with 25 home runs.
The Bulls will open their 70-game home slate on April 5 against the Charlotte Knights.