New Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch came to town with a plan, and he and general manager Al Avila are executing it quickly. On Saturday, as first reported by Britt Ghiroli and Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic, the club has made three more hires to round out Hinch’s coaching staff.
George Lombard, former Los Angeles Dodgers first base coach and outfield instructor, is now Hinch’s bench coach. Lombard was one of the better first-time managerial candidates available and interviewed for the Tigers job prior to the hire of Hinch. We profiled him here at Bless You Boys back in mid-October.
Lombard is well respected as a leader and a coach. He’s been part of Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts’ staff for the past six seasons and now has a World Series ring waiting for him next spring. Lombard has been a hitting instructor in the minor leagues, and handled baserunning and outfield play for the Dodgers.
Scott Coolbaugh is the Tigers new hitting coach, and he has a long track record as a coach. Most recently, he was the Chicago White Sox assistant hitting coach for the 2020 season. He’s been coaching since 2000 and has a broad mix of minor league and major league experience, working with a wide variety of talent.
Coolbaugh is most closely tied to the Texas Rangers. They drafted in the third round of the 1987 draft, and there was a time where Coolbaugh was their next big hitting prospect. It didn’t quite pan out that way. He spent two seasons in the major leagues with Texas, and then had short stints with the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals in the early 90’s before playing for several years in Japan. Coolbaugh returned to the Rangers as their major league hitting coach in 2011 and 2012, working with hitters like Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, and Michael Young.
From 2012 to 2018 he served as the hitting coach for the Baltimore Orioles under Buck Showalter. He worked with Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones, and other Orioles staples in those years. Coolbaugh was also the Dodgers Triple-A hitting coach in 2019, and drew good reviews for his work helping top prospect Gavin Lux bloom into one of the better minor league hitters in the game.
The final hire is of longtime coach and former manager Chip Hale to take over as the Tigers third base coach. Hale was a mid-round pick by the Minnesota Twins back in 1987, and saw major league action over parts of six seasons with the Twins in the early ‘90’s.
Hale has done just about everything in the coaching field other than working with pitchers. He managed the Triple-A Tuscon Sidewinders for three seasons, and was Pacific Coast League manager of the year in 2006. He then served under Bob Melvin as the Oakland Athletics’ third base coach and later Jerry Manuel as his third base coach with the New York Mets.
Long considered a future manager, Hale got his chance with the Arizona Diamondbacks after they fired Kirk Gibson following the 2014 season. Hale took over as their manager in 2015 and ran the club for two seasons before he was released. He then returned to the Athletics in 2016, before ultimately taking the bench coach position in Washington where he was part of the Nationals 2019 World Series championship.
The first impression here is of an extremely experienced staff of coaches coming together, complimenting and contrasting with the Tigers youthful new pitching coach, Chris Fetter. Lombard and Hale could step into a managerial position elsewhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Coolbaugh has extensive experience as a hitting instructor and seems to be a believer in a blend of old and new school teaching methodologies. Each is well regarded and well known around the game.