Fresno Grizzlies

Fresno Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco returning for 2016

Manager Tony DeFrancesco is set to return for a second season in Fresno after leading the Grizzlies to a Triple-A national championship in his first year.
Manager Tony DeFrancesco is set to return for a second season in Fresno after leading the Grizzlies to a Triple-A national championship in his first year. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Tony DeFrancesco is coming back to the Fresno Grizzlies to help defend their Triple-A National Championship.

Major league parent Houston will retain the managers at its top four affiliates, the club announced Thursday, including the 52-year-old DeFrancesco, who will manage his sixth Triple-A season with the Astros.

The Grizzlies enjoyed a historic 2015 campaign under DeFrancesco in their first year as an Astros affiliate after 17 seasons in the San Francisco Giants system.

Fresno went 84-59 during the regular season to set a franchise record for victories while returning to the playoffs for the first time since its inaugural year. The Grizzlies won the Pacific Coast League championship before capturing a one-game showdown for the overall Triple-A crown.

DeFrancesco had talked about his desire to one day manage in the big leagues again after serving as the Astros’ interim manager for roughly half of the 2012 season.

4 Triple-A league championships won by Tony DeFrancesco, who will return to the Grizzlies for the 2016 season

Nonetheless, DeFrancesco could be in line for more success in the minors. He has won four Triple-A league championships and reached the playoffs 10 times overall in his 21 years as a minor league manager.

And the Grizzlies figure to be stacked with talent again while drawing from a pool of players that won a championship with Fresno and/or played for Double-A or Class-A teams that reached the playoffs.

The Astros did make a couple of changes to the Grizzlies’ staff.

Pitching coach Ace Adams was assigned to the Tri-City ValleyCats of the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League. Dyar Miller, formerly the Astros’ pitching coordinator, takes over as the Grizzlies’ pitching coach.

Fresno will have a new pitching coach in 2016. The Grizzlies led the PCL with a 2.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season.

Last season, the Grizzlies ranked ninth in the 16-team PCL with a 4.24 ERA, but their 2.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the best in the league.

Hitting coach Leon Roberts was named the Astros’ roving outfield instructor and replaced in Fresno by Ralph Dickenson, who was the Astros’ roving hitting instructor last season and assistant major league hitting coach in 2014.

The Grizzlies led the PCL in five offensive categories last season, including runs (804), RBIs (756) and on-base percentage (.357).

Fresno opens the 2016 campaign April 7.

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