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Clayton McCullough a tough loss for Blue Jays player development

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Clayton McCullough.
Clayton McCullough.
Photo courtesy of Jay Blue. Used with permission.

All the talk about a certain employee of the Baltimore Orioles possibly leaving his club for a promotion had overshadowed the news of the Toronto Blue Jays' loss of Clayton McCullough to a promotion earlier this week. On Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced that they had hired away McCullough to make him their new minor league field coordinator.

"Clayton McCullough is a guy we're really going to miss," Blue Jays minor league director Charlie Wilson told Bluebird Banter at the Buffalo Bisons Hot Stove Luncheon, adding that "it's really tough to lose a guy like Clayton."

McCullough served as the Blue Jays' minor league Coordinator of Instruction last season after two championship seasons as the manager of the Vancouver Canadians.

McCullough, who just turned 35, started his coaching career as the hitting instructor for the rookie-level Pulaski Blue Jays in 2005 at the tender age of 25. When he took that role he had just retired as a player with 104 minor league games under his belt, making it up to triple-A for his last professional game. McCullough was promoted to be the GCL Blue Jays' manager in 2007, then went on to manage the single-A Lansing Lugnuts for a couple of seasons before taking the A-advanced Dunedin Blue Jays to two straight postseasons in 2010 and 2011. His efforts led him to be named the Florida State League Manager of the Year in 2011. As a former catcher, he would also be involved with catching instruction.

Last season McCullough worked primarily with the youngest position prospects in the organization, working from the Dominican Summer League up to the Florida State League. He spoke with Blue Jays From Away about the details of his coordinator role last year.

I have never had a chance to meet McCullough or to really see him in action, but I have heard nothing but positive things about him from players and other coaches in the organization. He has had an incredible amount of experience and success at a very young age.

Wilson, for one, believes that McCullough has a very bright future in the game. "The sky's the limit for him. He'll do very well in this game. Major league manager, farm director, general manager, who knows. He's that good."

The Blue Jays are not actively hiring someone to fill in the hole left by McCullough's departure right now, but it is likely they will find someone by 2016.

Other notes

Sal Fasano will be moving from minor league catching to pitching instructor (to replace Dane Johnson, who was promoted to major league bullpen coach) this upcoming season but the Blue Jays will not be looking to hire a new catching instructor for 2015. Wilson said that Fasano will still do some catching instruction along with field coordinator Doug Davis, Lugnuts manager Ken Huckaby, Canadians manager John Schneider, and GCL coach Paul Elliott, all of whom were former catchers.

Fasano, Wilson, Johnson, and Pete Walker recently completed two-and-a-half days of planning in Dunedin. Wilson said that the club is "very comfortable" with having Fasano as the franchise's first non-pitcher pitching coordinator. I would be interested to see whether the Fasano will return to that role in 2016.

On Dane Johnson's move to the big leagues, Wilson said he was very happy for Johnson, but he will be another big loss for the minor league side, saying that "he's extremely competent, outstanding pitching coach, and was a fabulous pitching coordinator and very deserving of the promotion."