Cards Set 2009 Dominican, Venezuelan Staffs

The St. Louis Cardinals announce coaches for their 2009 Dominican and Venezuelan Summer League clubs.

Prior to Christmas, when the St. Louis Cardinals organization announced their 2009 coaching assignments, they didn't have all their staffs set. Specifically, their coaches for the Dominican Summer and Venezuelan Summer Leagues had not yet been finalized.

We now have that information. Four of the six coaches are returnees to the Cardinals organization but three have new assignments for 2009. Two are new hires by the Cards.

The Cardinals' Venezuelan Summer League manager for 2009 has a familiar name. Enrique Brito spent the last two seasons as the skipper of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals. Prior to that, the Venezuelan served eight years as the Cards' Latin American scouting supervisor. He replaces the 2008 VSL Cards manager Javier Meza, now hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.

Brito also currently serves as the CEO of Team Venezuela for the World Baseball Classic and is general manager of the Venezuelan Winter League Caribes club, a recent winter ball destination for several Cardinals prospects. He played in the Minnesota Twins organization in 1978 and 1979 before working as a scout and coach for them through 1999.

The Cardinals' new Dominican Summer League manager is Claudio Almonte, replacing Nelson Norman, who is no longer with the organization. The 31-year-old Almonte also has roots with the Minnesota Twins as he spent the last five seasons coaching in their organization. He had been their DSL hitting coach since 2003.

The native of the Dominican played for the Twins in their minor leagues as a .284-career hitting outfielder from 1997 through 1999, reaching the Single-A Midwest League. Ironically, Almonte's final playing stop was the Quad City River Bandits, then associated with Minnesota.

Former Cardinals minor league hurler Henderson Lugo is the new pitching coach in Venezuela. Lugo reached as far as Johnson City in a playing career that ended after the 2006 season. He coached with the Dominican Summer League Cardinals last year.

Cardinals Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez singled out the 24-year-old Venezuelan, noting that "Lugo has a bright future."

The DSL pitching coach for 2009 is Bill Villanueva, who last season served as assistant to Jupiter Complex Pitching Coordinator Derek Lilliquist and worked with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals staff.

The new hitting coach in the VSL is Jesus Laya, who was with the VSL Tigers the last two years as hitting coach and scout. Prior to that, he spent four seasons (2002-2005) as a coach and scout for the Boston Red Sox and six more as an international scout, having started with the Florida Marlins in 1997.

Rene Rojas returns for his second season as DSL hitting coach. The 30-year-old had a previous success record as a Cardinals scout from 2004 through 2007, having signed many of the Dominican prospects currently in the lower levels of the system.

Club Manager Pitching Coach Hitting Coach
DSL Claudio Almonte Bill Villanueva Rene Rojas
VSL Enrique Brito Henderson Lugo Jesus Laya

For the remainder of the Cardinals coaches for the 2009 season, refer to my December 18 article entitled, "Cardinals Announce 2009 Minor League Coaches".

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at his blog, The Cardinal Nation.

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