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Rojas out as Mud Hens manager

09/18/2017, 3:32pm EDT

Led Toledo to 70-71 record last season

Toledo Mud Hens manager Mike Rojas in the dug out during a baseball game against the Rochester Red Wings Friday, July 28 at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio. BLADE

The Detroit Tigers announced Monday that Mike Rojas would not return as manager of the Toledo Mud Hens.

Last season, Rojas led Toledo to a 70-71 record, thanks in large part to a 22-10 August. That strong finish was negated by a 10-19 record in May and a 10-17 mark in July.

The Mud Hens finished with a losing record for the eighth consecutive season, the longest active string of losing seasons in the International League.

Toledo also missed the Governors’ Cup playoffs for the 10th year in a row. Only Buffalo, which has missed the playoffs in 12 consecutive seasons, has been out of the IL playoffs longer.

“As the 2017 minor league season has come to an end and we start to plan for 2018, we have alerted Mike Rojas that he will not be returning as the manager for Triple-A Toledo,” Dave Littlefield, Tigers vice president of player development, said in a release. “This was a baseball decision, and we wanted to go in a different direction. We thank Mike Rojas for his contributions to the organization and we wish him the best moving forward.”

When asked in a phone interview what he meant when he said it was a “baseball decision,” Littlefield said, “When we look at the big picture, we want to win championships at the major-league level, but also develop players in a winning atmosphere at the minor-league level.

“Mike is a veteran baseball man with a lot of experience around the game, and I respect that. But we decided we want to have someone else in that position.”

Rojas currently is in Venezuela preparing to manage the Caracas Leones in the Venezuelan (Winter) League and did not return a call seeking comment. 

Littlefield did not mention the fiery temper of Rojas when talking about the former manager. But Rojas was ejected from seven games, tops in the IL, and also served a one-game suspension for a late-game shouting match with Louisville’s Delino DeShields on May 18.

Rojas also served as Hens manager in 2007, when he replaced an injured Larry Parrish, and led the team to an 82-61 record as well as the team’s last West Division title and playoff berth. He has a 152-132 record in Toledo, and his .535 winning percentage with the Mud Hens is the fourth-best in franchise history.

The 54-year-old Rojas, the son of former major league player and manager Cookie Rojas, has a 721-714 record in 13 years as a minor-league manager.

Rojas had major-league coaching experience, serving as Seattle Mariners bullpen coach in 2014-15 under Lloyd McClendon, who preceded him as Toledo manager in 2016 before joining Detroit’s staff as hitting coach this season. Rojas also served as Detroit’s bullpen coach in 2011-13.

Littlefield said the status of Hens pitching coach Jeff Pico, hitting coach Brian Harper, and third-base coach Basilio Cabrera for next season has not been determined.

”We are pleased with the work they have done,” Littlefield said. “We will be having organizational meetings when the major-league season is over, and that’s when we will be making decisions on where people will be next season.”

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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