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Valentin set to return as TinCaps manager


– Jose Valentin guided the TinCaps to the Midwest League championship series in his first year as a professional manager.

Not bad for a rookie.

Valentin will be back for an encore for Fort Wayne in 2013, the TinCaps announced Tuesday in conjunction with the San Diego Padres. Willie Blair returns as the pitching coach, and Morgan Burkhart replaces Jacque Jones as the hitting coach.

Valentin led Fort Wayne to the franchise’s second Eastern Division championship. The TinCaps lost to Wisconsin in the Midwest League championship.

“I thought Jose did a great job last year. We improved as the year went on. He grew as the year went on,” TinCaps President Mike Nutter said. “I couldn’t be happier with Jose coming back.”

Valentin was named the Low-A Manager of the Year for 2012 by Baseball America. Fort Wayne had an overall record of 69-71 in the regular season and went 38-32 in the second half to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The TinCaps beat Lansing and Lake County in the playoffs before falling to Wisconsin 3-1 in the championship round.

“He did such a great job there last year,” said Randy Smith, director of player development/international scouting for the San Diego Padres. “I’m glad we are able to keep a majority of the staff together, and I think Morgan Burkhart will be a good addition to those two guys.”

Blair returns for a third consecutive season. The TinCaps had the fifth-best ERA (3.59) in the 16-team Midwest League last season. He helped with the development of relief pitcher Matt Stites, who was named the Low-A All-Star relief pitcher of the year by Baseball America.

Burkhart played for the Boston Red Sox in 2000 and 2001 and for the Kansas City Royals in 2003.

Most recently, he was the manager of the Windy City ThunderBolts, an independent team in the Frontier League. He’s also managed three seasons for the independent Calgary Vipers.

Athletic trainer Ricky Huerta will join the club for his first season in Fort Wayne.