Cardinals Change Three Minor League Skippers

Digging into the major changes at the Class A level as three St. Louis Cardinals minor league managers will not be back in their roles next season while two new skippers have been named.

As was discussed in the earlier article, "Big Minor League Coaching Changes for Cards", three St. Louis Cardinals minor league managers at the Class A level are not returning for 2010. Here is a summary of the managerial changes.

2010 managers 2009
Palm Beach TBD Tom Spencer
Quad Cities Johnny Rodriguez Steve Dillard
Batavia Dann Bilardello Mark DeJohn

Now, we will look into the backgrounds of the outgoing and incoming managers, starting with Palm Beach, who will welcome their fourth manager in the last five seasons.

Palm Beach: outgoing, Tom Spencer; incoming, to be announced

Spencer managed just one year with Palm Beach after having spent the previous six as the Cardinals minor league baserunning and outfield instructor. Prior to that, his only managerial role with the organization was a partial season with Triple-A Memphis in 2003.

The former major league outfielder managed five years at the Triple-A level in other organizations from 1997-2001 and had a total of ten years prior managerial experience down to the rookie level. In addition, Spencer spent five seasons as a first and third base coach in the majors with Cleveland, the Mets and Houston.

Spencer's 2009 Palm Beach club finished with a 61-77 (.442) record in the Florida State League and he has an 84-119 combined record in the Cardinals system. Under Gaylen Pitts in 2008, Palm Beach went 75-62 (.547). Spencer's contract was not renewed for 2010.

Quad Cities: outgoing, Steve Dillard; incoming Johnny Rodriguez

2009 was the fifth season of Dillard's coaching career spent in the Quad Cities and his fourth season as manager, two for the Cardinals. The Mississippi native first guided the Quad City River Bandits in 1993-1994, then an Astros affiliate, and returned as skipper for the 2008 season with the Cardinals.

During the season, Dillard set the franchise record for games managed and won to go along with his unenviable team loss mark as well. He finished his 2009 season at 61-78 (.439) coming off a 68-66 (.507) 2008 season. His overall Quad Cities stint ends with a 242-299 career record over 541 games.

The baseball veteran began his coaching career after retiring as a player in 1982 before stepping away from professional ball in 1995 as his sons progressed in their playing careers. Dillard returned in 2006 as the hitting coach for the Swing of the Quad Cities and moved to the Palm Beach Cardinals in the same capacity in 2007. Dillard's contract was not renewed for 2010.

Rodriguez joined the Cardinals one year ago as the hitting coach of the Johnson City Cardinals of the Appalachian League. He came from the Florida Marlins organization, where he was hitting coach at Jamestown in 2007 and 2008. He had been with the Marlins since 2002, when he began as the manager at Jamestown.

Rodriguez was a hitting coach in the Expos organization in 2000 and 2001. Prior to joining the Expos, he spent 17 seasons as a coach in the New York Yankees system, with the University of Miami, Miami Dade Community College and Westminster Christian High School (FL).

Rodriguez, 53, also has scouting experience with Houston, Anaheim, New York Mets and Milwaukee organizations.

In October of 2002, he led an amateur team filled with draft-eligible prospects to the championship of the Perfect Game/Baseball America World Wood Bat tournament held in Jupiter, Florida.

His son, Sean, is a middle infielder in the Tampa Bay system and made his Major League debut during the 2008 season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Batavia: outgoing, Mark DeJohn; incoming Dann Bilardello

DeJohn is the reigning winner of the George Kissell Award, which recognizes a member of the Cardinals organizational staff for excellence in player development. In fact, the Connecticut resident is a two-time winner, having also received the honor in 2003.

DeJohn managed in the Cardinals system from 1986 through 1991 and again starting in 2002. During part of the interim period, he served as a coach on Tony La Russa's staff in St. Louis from 1996 through 2001. DeJohn was also named our Cardinals Minor League Manager of the Year in 2008.

DJ's five playoff appearances are the most of any active Cardinals minor league skipper and his two titles tie Chris Maloney for tops in the system. His two league winners were with Tennessee of the Double-A Southern League in 2004 and the New York-Penn League championship won by Batavia in 2008, at the time the first pennant at any level of the Cardinals system since 2005.

Over 14 years in the Cardinals system, DeJohn has managed 1488 regular season games, with his teams posting 747 wins and 741 losses for a .502 winning percentage. He has led clubs at five different levels, from short-season rookie ball through Triple-A. DeJohn will be the organization's senior roving field instructor in 2010.

Bilardello will be starting his fifth season in the Cardinals organization after spending the first four years as the roving catching coordinator. He served as skipper at Single-A Wilmington in the Boston organization in 2005 and is currently in his second year of managing in winter ball in Colombia.

Prior to 2005, Bilardello served three seasons as a manager in the Dodgers' system. In 2002, his first season as a coach or manager, he led the rookie league Great Falls Dodgers to the Pioneer League championship.

Bilardello, 50, played all or part of eight major league seasons as a catcher with Cincinnati (1983-85), Montreal (1986), Pittsburgh (1989-90) and San Diego (1991-92). He played a career-high 109 games during his rookie season with the Reds, posting career bests in home runs (nine) and RBI (38). Originally taken by the Dodgers in the first round of the secondary phase of the June 1978 draft, he belted his first major league home run off Hall of Famer Tom Seaver.

One of his three children, Davis, a left-handed pitcher, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 43rd round of the 2007 draft. He advanced as far as Palm Beach before his release late in 2009 spring training.

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

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