Odor back to lead RubberDucks this season

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
Ernie Clement of the Akron RubberDucks talks to manager Rouglas Odor at third base during a game against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies on July 5, 2019 at Binghamton's NYSEG Stadium.

AKRON  In a time of change and uncertainty, the 2021 season will have a welcome dose of continuity for the Akron RubberDucks.

While the team's roster won't be announced until the Cleveland Indians break training camp and iron out their own roster, the organization announced its player development staff assignments late last week. Former Canton-Akron Indian Rouglas Odor will return for a delayed second season as the RubberDucks' manager after last season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Odor first managed Akron in 2019, when he led the team to a 61-79 record, good for fifth in the Eastern League Western Division following a 34-35 first half record.

In 12 season as a manager, Odor has compiled a career record of 422-442 (.488). His roots with the organization dates back to his playing days as a Canton-Akron Indians infielder for parts of 1991, 1993 and 1994. Odor then returned to Akron as hitting coach for the Akron Aeros in 2012, playing a key role in leading the franchise to its fourth Eastern League championship. In 2014, Odor became the first member of the Cleveland Indians organization to wear a uniform as part of the Canton-Akron Indians, Akron Aeros and the Akron RubberDucks when he made his return as the hitting coach.

A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, he's in his 34th season with the Cleveland Indians organization, the same franchise who drafted him in the 32nd round of the 1988 draft. He played in the Cleveland system from 1988-1994 before moving to the Milwaukee Brewers system for the 1995 season.

His managerial career has included stops with San Felipe in the Venezuelan Summer League (1999-00), the Burlington Indians (2001-04), the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (2005-06), Gulf Coast League Indians (2007-08). In 2009, he debuted as the hitting coach for the Kinston Indians (2009-10) and continued in that role for the Double-A Akron Aeros (2011-12), High-A Carolina Mudcats (2013), Double-A Akron RubberDucks (2014), and Triple-A Columbus Clippers (2015-2017).

He'll be joined by new pitching coach Owen Drew, who makes his first visit to Akron after previously having served as the pitching coach for the Lake County Captains in the Class-A Midwest league in 2019. Dew began his baseball journey as a right-handed pitcher for Seminole State College of Florida (2008-09), before moving to the University of Central Florida in 2010, when he was drafted in the 21st round of the 2010 amateur draft by the Cleveland Indians.

During his time with the organization, Drew transitioned to the bullpen after a strong 2.64 ERA in nine starts for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. His final season as a player was at Class-A Lake County, where  the right hander appeared in 34 games accruing 70 innings and posted a 3.86 ERA with 41 strikeouts.

He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Seminole State College of Florida while also assisting the Cleveland Indians as an associate scout from 2014-17. His coaching career took off when he was appointed as a full-time minor league pitching coach within the organization, making stops with the Mahoning Valley (2017), Arizona League Indians 2 (2018), and Lake County Captains (2019).

Under his leadership, the Lake County pitching staff posted a team ERA of 3.73 over 1,191 innings, good for eighth in the Midwest League.

Another new face on the coaching staff will be hitting coach Junior Betances, who will coach in Akron for the first time in his 21-year coaching career with the Cleveland Indians' organization. Betances played with the Akron Aeros for 165 games in the 1998 and 1999 seasons, which were some of the first in the organization's time in Akron.

The native of La Vega, Dominican Republic, has served in various roles for the Cleveland Indians Dominican Summer League team and also worked in the Arizona League. Another new addition to the staff, bench coach Mike Merganthaler, joins the RubberDucks after serving as the Lynchburg Hillcats bench coach in 2019.

The only familiar face on the coaching staff from the 2019 season outside of Odor is strength and conditioning coach Scott Nealon, who enters his eighth season in the Cleveland Indians organization, returning to the same position he held in 2016 for the RubberDucks Eastern League Championship Series. Nealon was the Triple-A Columbus strength and conditioning coach the last three seasons (2017-19), including the Clippers’ 2019 Governor’s Cup championship season.

Earlier last month, the RubberDucks officially signed to continue as the Cleveland Indians' Double-A affiliate for the next 10 seasons and will begin their 2021 campaign later this spring.