MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman first reported the Mientkiewicz hire. The Tigers have not announced that move, but they announced the other managerial appointments Tuesday afternoon, as well as Gerald Laird's return to Class A Short-Season Connecticut.
Mientkiewicz spent the past five years as a successful manager in the Twins' farm system. He took four teams to the postseason, including his Class A Advanced Florida State League club this year in Fort Myers, Fla. His FSL title with Fort Myers in 2014 helped him earn a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga, where he won a Southern League title the next year. Among the Twins prospects he managed was rising star outfielder Byron Buxton.
Mientkiewicz's bigger claim to fame, however, came on the field, where he was the Twins' first baseman on American League Central championship teams in 2002 and '03 under Gardenhire. He won a World Series with the Red Sox in '04, catching the final out, then went on to play five more Major League seasons at various stops. He won an AL Gold Glove Award at first base with Minnesota in '01, and he batted .306 with 39 doubles, 15 home runs and 74 RBIs that season.
Mientkiewicz finished with a .271 average, 899 big league hits, 405 RBIs and a .765 OPS in 1,087 Major League games. He also won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2000 Olympics.
Mientkiewicz's Toledo ties go back to childhood. He was born in nearby Sylvania, Ohio, and he told the Toledo Blade his parents lived in Point Place for six years before moving to Florida while he was in grade school. He told the paper his parents would take him to watch the Toledo Goaldiggers, the local Minor League hockey team at the time.
Mientkiewicz played high school baseball in Miami, and he was a teammate of Alex Rodriguez at Westminster Christian. He went on to play college baseball at Florida State.
The Twins did not renew Mientkiewicz's contract as a Minor League manager at season's end, making him a free agent. The combination of his local ties, track record and relationship with Gardenhire -- with whom he will have a lot of communication on a rebuilding Tigers squad that is expected to have a lot of moves between Detroit and Toledo -- made him a natural candidate for the job.
Mientkiewicz will be the fourth Mud Hens manager in as many seasons. He replaces Mike Rojas, who returned to the Tigers' organization last year to manage in Toledo before he and the Tigers cut ties at season's end. Lloyd McClendon managed the Hens in 2016 before taking over as Tigers hitting coach. Larry Parrish retired as Hens manager following the '15 season.
Both Graham and Rabelo have earned high regard for their work in the lower levels of the system. Graham, a former Tigers Minor League catcher, spent one year at Lakeland, posting a 62-66 record after three seasons each at West Michigan and Connecticut. He led the Whitecaps to a Midwest League title in 2015. Rabelo took over at West Michigan last year after three seasons in Connecticut and guided the Whitecaps to the league's best record despite a roster in flux between midseason promotions and late-season trades that brought in prospects.
Those promotions resulted in a move for Lance Parrish back to the Midwest League, where he managed 10 years ago with the Great Lakes Loons of the Dodgers' organization.
The move was a balancing act for Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield, who wanted to give Graham and Rabelo a new challenge but still wanted to keep Parrish and his experience in the organization. Parrish's work in Erie included current Tigers JaCoby Jones, John Hicks, Joe Jimenez, Warwick Saupold, Drew VerHagen, Zac Reininger and Buck Farmer.