By Zach James
Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton LumberKings’ front-office staff is hoping the new manager will bring the same mojo with him to the Midwest League.
After spending the previous three seasons with the LumberKings, Eddie Menchaca is moving up to High-A to manage the Seattle Mariners’ California League affiliate, High Desert.
“He’s a great guy, and we’re happy for him,” LumberKings general manager Ted Tornow said. “He called me around Christmastime to tell me, but I had to keep it under wraps. He loved his time here, and we are appreciative of what he did here.”
The new manager for the LumberKings is Chris Prieto. Prieto spent his first season in the organization last season in the Appalachian League with the Pulaski Mariners.
Under Prieto’s direction, Pulaski had a league-best 47-21 record and won the Appalachian League championship.
It was Pulaski’s first championship since 1991, also the last time Clinton has experienced a league title, than as an affilate of the San Francisco Giants.
“We’re not saying ... but we’re just saying,” the LumberKings tweeted following the announcement.
Prieto was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 24th round of the 1993 draft. He made his major league debut in 2005 with the Angels. During his time in the minor leagues, however, he and his brother Rick, became the first set of twins (in 1998) to play together in the same Pacific Coast League game in 30 years.
“Eddie spoke very highly of him, and if Eddie thinks he’s a good guy, then he must be a good guy,” Tornow said. “I can’t wait to meet him.”
Mike Kinkade will return for his second season on Clinton’s staff, and fourth inside the Mariners organization. Kinkade spent parts of six seasons in the major leagues from 1998 through 2008 that included appearances with the Mets, Orioles and Dodgers.
“Here’s a guy that I saw play when he played in the Pioneer League with the Brewers, and he tore us up,” Tornow said. “We have been a pretty good hitting club while Mike’s been here, and I would like to think that’s because of him.”
Clinton led the Midwest League in 2013 with a .268 batting average, just ahead of Cedar Rapids, which hit. 267. Clinton also led in hits with 1,244. Clinton’s Dario Pizzano had the fourth-best individual average in the MWL as he hit .311 with 70 RBIs.
Cibney Bello will be Clinton’s pitching coach after spending the past two seasons with the Mariners’ Arizona League squad. Bello is familiar with the Midwest League, having spent the 2005 season with Wisconsin.
Geoff Swanson will be the athletic trainer for the upcoming season. He spent last season with Pulaski, and graduated from the University of Illinois in 2010 with a Bachelors of Science in Athletic Training.
Andrew Lorraine, who spent the past couple of seasons with the LumberKings as pitching coach, will join Menchaca’s staff at High Desert.
The final addition to the LumberKings staff is Taylor Nakamua, performance specialist, in his first season inside the Mariners organization.
Clinton finished 67-72 last season.
The LumberKings open up the season April 3 in Cedar Rapids, and the home opener is April 8 against Lake County.