Reno Aces manager provides insight ahead of 2023 season

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 11:17 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (Reno Aces) - The Reno Aces, in conjunction with the Arizona Diamondbacks, have announced the team’s coaching staff for the 2023 season. Blake Lalli returns as the Aces manager for his second stint as Reno’s skipper in the past three seasons as Reno looks to defend its Pacific Coast League Championship this season.

The Aces coaching staff includes Doug Drabek and Mark Reed, who comes back to Greater Nevada Field for their second campaigns as pitching and hitting coaches. Jeff Bajenaru rejoins as pitching coach for his third season in the past five years with the club while hitting coach Travis Denker rounds out the squad as the newest member of the Aces coaching staff.

“We are thrilled to have Blake come back to lead the Aces. He is an elite manager and fierce competitor who will ensure another highly competitive season in 2023,” said Reno Aces General Manager & COO Chris Phillips. “Blake has embraced the Reno community over the years as an Aces player and manager, and we are lucky to have a leader that our fanbase knows so well.”

Athletic trainer Damon Reel begins his first season with the Aces, and Nathan Friedman returns as strength & conditioning coach to complete the support staff for the Aces this season.

Blake Lalli – Manager

Lalli enters his second tour as the manager of the Aces and enters his sixth year within the Diamondbacks organization. Last year he was the D-backs minor league field coordinator working with every affiliate within Arizona’s system. During his first season as manager of the Aces, the club produced a 70-54 record in 2021′s shortened season. His 12-year playing career included MLB stints with the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, and Atlanta Braves. He appeared in 32 games, collecting seven hits and five RBI.

Jeff Bajenaru – Pitching Coach

Bajenaru will oversee the Aces’ arms as one of the club’s pitching coaches. Last season he was in the same role with the D-backs High-A affiliate in Hillsboro. He is entering his 13th season coaching within Arizona’s system, including back-to-back California League Coach of the Year Awards with Visalia in 2017 and 2018. During his three-year MLB career, he appeared in 14 games and won a World Series ring in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox.

Doug Drabek – Pitching Coach

Drabek returns for his second season in the “Biggest Little City” as one of the club’s pitching coaches while possessing one of the longest resumes in Aces history. Since 2010, the Victoria, Tex. native has been a pitching coach within the Diamondbacks organization. Last season, he led Reno’s pitching staff to the most regular season wins, strikeouts, and holds in franchise history. The 1990 Cy Young Award winner played with the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, and Baltimore Orioles. He earned 155 wins and collected over 1500 strikeouts during his 13 years in the majors.

Travis Denker – Hitting Coach

Denker is set to begin his first season on a Triple-A coaching staff after he completed his second season in Amarillo and fifth overall as a coach in the D-backs organization. Under his guidance, the Sod Poodles offense led Double-A in batting average (.277), hits (1312), total bases (2151), RBI (769), slugging percentage (.454), and OPS (.806). Before his stint in Amarillo, he spent two seasons as the hitting coach in Visalia. After being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003, the southern California native played in the minors with six organizations, including the Diamondbacks.

Mark Reed – Hitting Coach

Reed is the second defending Pacific Coast League Championship-winning coaching staff member returning to Reno for the 2023 season. Last season, he saw the team’s offense set a new franchise record in stolen bases (156) and ranked third in the PCL in batting average (.273). Over his ten seasons within Arizona’s organization, he has worked in various roles, primarily with the system’s catchers. Reed played within the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks systems during his nine-year playing career. He also joins Lalli as another former Aces player who has returned to Reno as a coaching staff member.