DETROIT -- The previously hinted shuffle in the Tigers' coaching staff was announced on Tuesday. Gene Lamont's shift from third-base coach to bench coach, and Tom Brookens' move from first to third, was the move many figured was going to happen.
The reasons given were slightly different. While manager Jim Leyland defended Lamont, he decided it was time to get a younger figure in a role that is becoming a younger person's job.
"I think Gene Lamont is as good of a third-base coach as anybody in the American League," Leyland said. "Terrific judgment. Terrific. But it might be time for him to come over to the bench with me and put Brookie out there."
Infield coach Rafael Belliard will take over for Brookens at first. Lamont and Belliard were the two coaches who had been in the same roles for Leyland's entire seven-year managerial tenure in Detroit. The other coach who dates back to Leyland's first season in 2006, Lloyd McClendon, went from bullpen coach to hitting coach in 2007.
The shift, Leyland emphasized, was not a sign of Lamont's decision-making, though the former Tigers first-round pick faced some very public second-guessing from fans and media for a handful of calls this season. His decision to wave Prince Fielder home in Game 2 of the World Series put him in the national spotlight, where he took responsibility for what he termed an overly aggressive call.
Lamont's insight and trust with Leyland allowed the Tigers to go without a bench coach ever since Leyland took over in 2006. Lamont essentially filled that job as Leyland's confidant and sounding board while also coaching third base.
The two go back to their time together as players in the Tigers' farm system in the 1960s, and later colleagues in Pittsburgh when Lamont was part of Leyland's first coaching staff with the 1986 Pirates. Their success helped earn Lamont his first managerial opportunity with the White Sox in 1992. He joined Leyland again in Pittsburgh in 1996, then succeeded him as Pirates manager from 1997-2000.
Lamont will turn 66 years old later this month.
"This will be another mind for me to bounce something off of," Leyland said. "But most of it's because Brookie's a little sprier right now."
Brookens, the most popular figure on the staff from his days as an infielder in Detroit from 1979-88, joined Leyland's staff in 2009 to replace Andy Van Slyke. He filled in as third-base coach twice this past season after Lamont was ejected for arguing calls. It wasn't exactly a stretch, since Brookens served as his own base coach when he managed at Class A West Michigan and Double-A Erie.
Belliard will get his first full-time chance at coaching a base. He, too, had been a fill-in, coaching at first each time Brookens moved to third in place of Lamont.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.