More changes are in store on the New York Yankees coaching staff as Alan Cockrell replaces Jeff Pentland as primary hitting instructor and Marcus Thames earns a promotion to the Bronx as his assistant.
Cockrell, 52, became the first assistant hitting coach in franchise history this past season after a five-year absence from the major league coaching ranks. A former quarterback at the University of Tennessee, Cockrell spent twelve seasons in the minor leagues as an outfielder before collecting nine at-bats with the Colorado Rockies in 1996 as a late season call-up. Cockrell earned his first big league coaching position as the hitting instructor for the National League champion Rockies in 2007 working with young stars Troy Tulowitzki, Garrett Atkins, and Matt Holliday.
Thames, a 30th round draft pick of the Yankees in 1996 is best remembered for homering on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues against Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2002. During a ten-year major league career, Thames hit 115 home runs and was an outfielder on the 2006 American League champion Detroit Tigers. Thames became the hitting coach for the Yankees minor league affiliate in Double-A Trenton following retirement and earned a promotion to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre before the start of the 2015 season.
The promotions of Cockrell and Thames are the latest changes in the Yankees organization in recent months. In late September Billy Eppler, the Yankees assistant GM under Brian Cashman, accepted the GM position with the Angels and bullpen coach Gary Tuck did not have his contract renewed for the 2016 season. Bench coach Rob Thomson and first base coach Tony Pena are currently without a new deal but sources around the club expect the pair to return to the coaching staff, according to George King of the New York Post.