Welcome to the new era of the Detroit Tigers’ hitting department.
The Tigers have hired Michael Brdar, the San Diego Padres’ hitting coach, to lead their revamped hitting department. James Rowson, the Miami Marlins’ bench coach and offensive coordinator, is also joining the hitting department, along with Keith Beauregard, a minor-league coach in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization.
The club announced the hires Tuesday.
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After Rowson and Beauregard joined, manager AJ Hinch began searching for the final piece of the puzzle. He conducted interviews in Las Vegas in conjunction with the general manager meetings. On Saturday, Brdar agreed to a multi-year contract.
Both Brdar and Beauregard received hitting coach titles, while Rowson is the assistant hitting coach.
“We want to build an offense that attacks pitchers as a team instead of as a group of individuals,” Scott Harris, president of baseball operations, said last Tuesday at the GM meetings in Las Vegas. “I think we can achieve that. I think we’re taking steps toward achieving that. I think we’re taking steps to address that on our coaching staff, as well.”
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Brdar, 28, has deep connections to the Tigers.
The first connection came in 2017, when Brdar — in his second and final season as a shortstop at the University of Michigan — collided with pitching coach Chris Fetter. Fetter joined the Wolverines before the 2017 season and left after the 2020 season, becoming the Tigers’ pitching coach.
The St. Louis Cardinals selected Brdar in the 36th round of the 2017 draft, but his playing career lasted just one season in the minor leagues. He returned to Michigan as the director of program development in 2018 and a volunteer assistant coach in 2019, again teaming up with Fetter and strengthening their relationship.
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From there, Brdar formed his second connection to the Tigers. The San Francisco Giants, with Harris serving as the general manager, hired Brdar in December 2019 as their assistant hitting coordinator in the minor leagues. One year later, Brdar was promoted to hitting coordinator.
Harris became the Tigers’ president of baseball operations in September 2022.
Brdar took his next step in coaching in November 2021, when the Padres hired him as their hitting coach in the major leagues. (The Tigers hired Mark Conner from the Padres in October 2022 to be their new scouting director, so there’s a third connection.)
During his only year there, Brdar helped the Padres reach the postseason for the first time in a full season since 2006. San Diego beat the Dodgers in the National League Division Series and advanced the NL Championship Series, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies.
In 2022, the Padres ranked 16th in batting average (.241), 21st in home runs (153), eighth in on-base percentage (.318), 15th in on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.700), sixth in walk rate (9.3%), ninth in strikeout rate (21.5%) and 13th in wRC+ (102).
They finished sixth in chase rate (30.4%) and fifth in contact rate (78.0%).
The Padres’ offense featured Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth, Ha-Seong Kim, Jurickson Profar, Trent Grisham and Wil Myers, along with trade deadline acquisitions Juan Soto and Brandon Drury. Profar, Myers and Drury are free agents this offseason.
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Rowson, 46, spent three seasons as the Marlins’ bench coach and has coached professionally for 20 seasons. He served as the Minnesota Twins’ hitting coach from 2017-19, with the Twins crushing an MLB-record 307 home runs in 2019.
He was a candidate for the Boston Red Sox managerial opening in 2020.
Before joining the Twins, Rowson worked for the Chicago Cubs from 2011-13. He started as a minor league hitting coordinator, then became the Cubs’ hitting coach in the big leagues during the 2012 season. Harris, now in his second month with the Tigers, worked in Chicago’s front office from 2012-19.
Rowson was the Yankees’ minor league hitting coordinator from 2008-11 and 2014-16.
Along with setting the home-run record, Rowson’s crew led the majors in 2019 with 906 RBIs and ranked second in runs (939), hits (1,547), batting average (.270) and slugging percentage (.494).
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In 2019, the Twins won 101 games and the American League Central. They were paced by Nelson Cruz (41 home runs), Max Kepler (36), Miguel San (34), Eddie Rosario (32), Mitch Garver (31), CJ Cron (25), Jonathan Schoop (23) and Jorge Polanco (22).
Rowson, selected by the Seattle Mariners in the ninth round of the 1994 draft, also has a playing career background. He played in the minor leagues for the Mariners (1995-96) and Yankees (1997) before a one-year stint for the Cook County Cheetahs in the Heartland League, an independent league, in 1998.
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