The Bridgeport Bluefish today announced that Luis Rodriguez has been named the seventh manager in franchise history. The team also announced the appointment Joe Winkelsas as pitching coach.
Rodriguez, 41, returns to the Park City for his ninth season with the Bluefish after having spent the past eight years as a player—including the last four as player/coach. This will also be his 11th season in the Atlantic League, and 24th overall in professional baseball. L-Rod replaces veteran independent league manager Ricky VanAsselberg at the helm in Bridgeport. VanAsselberg led the Bluefish to a 56-83 record in 2015—tied for worst in the Atlantic League with the Camden Riversharks. The Riversharks have announced they are moving to New Britain where they will be called The Bees.
At the beginning of the 2013 season, L-Rod assisted manager Luis Sojo, the former Yankee favorite, in the World Baseball Classic as a member of the coaching staff for Team Venezuela. There, he helped Sojo coach several major league stars, including Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, and Elvis Andrus.
The veteran backstop brings extensive professional experience to Bridgeport, including eight stints at the Triple-A level with the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Cardinals and Tigers organizations. Over his minor league career, L-Rod, a passionate leader wherever he has played, appeared in 1,720 games, recording a .253 batting average with 106 home runs and 733 RBI. He was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent at the age of 17 by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 1, 1991.
“We’re proud to announce that Luis will be at the helm of the Bluefish for the 2016 season” said Bluefish general manager Jamie Toole. “He’s been with this organization for almost a decade and has been an integral part of the team each year. Luis is a proven leader and passionate individual, who brings over 20 years of professional experience to the clubhouse.”
Known as “The Machete” for his cannon of an arm behind the plate, Rodriguez played for the Long Island Ducks and the Nashua Pride (then in the Atlantic League) before coming to Bridgeport in 2008. Although primarily a catcher, the Venezuelan native has played every position in the field, and has a .985 career fielding percentage.
“It’s an honor to be named field manager of the franchise I have spent my last eight seasons with,” said the new manager. “Having over 23 years of experience in professional baseball, including 10 in the Atlantic League, I am confident we can instill a winning mentality in Bridgeport. I look forward to teaching our team to play the game with passion and give their best effort every day. We are going to create a great product on the field that our fans can enjoy and cheer for.”
Winkelsas, 42, joins the Bluefish for his third season in the Atlantic League, and first in the league as a coach. Last year, he served as pitching coach for the Sioux Fall Canaries of the independent American Association where his pitching staff recorded a 4.28 ERA—the fifth best ERA in Sioux Falls history since the team’s inception in 1993. and lowest since the 2008 campaign.
“Joe is a professional in every sense of the word and is familiar with the Atlantic League,” said Toole. “He also brings widespread experience to the club, including a couple years in the Major Leagues. We look forward to his contributions.”
A native of Buffalo, NY, Winkelsas began his professional career in 1996 when he was signed as an amateur free agent by the Atlanta Braves. He spent four years in the Braves organization before making his MLB debut with the club in 1999, and continued to play in the Atlanta farm system through 2003.
Winkelsas first played the Atlantic League in 2004 when he appeared in seven games for the Somerset Patriots before having his contract purchased by the Chicago White Sox organization. After spending the next season with the White Sox AAA affiliate, he was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006. After making 19 appearances in the minors, the right-hander returned to the majors to pitch for the Brewers. Overall, Winkelsas has appeared in 311 career minor league games and holds a 3.72 ERA with 27 wins and 293 strikeouts in 445 innings.
“This is a great opportunity for me to continue my coaching career,” said Winkelsas. “The Atlantic League has a wide array of talent and it will be an honor to work with all the unique individuals. I believe that with 15 years of professional baseball under my belt, I can help this team and the players achieve their goals.”
The Bluefish will entertain the Bees in their 2106 home opener on Thursday, April 26. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. For information on 2016 season tickets and mini-plans, please visit www.bridgeportbluefish.com.