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Atlanta Braves Announce Gwinnett Coaching Staff for 2023

February 17, 2023 - International League (IL) - Gwinnett Stripers News Release


LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - The Atlanta Braves announced today the Gwinnett Stripers' coaching staff for the 2023 season. Matt Tuiasosopo returns for his third season as Gwinnett manager, while hitting coach Carlos Mendez, coach Wigberto Nevarez, and assistant athletic trainer Dan Gaertner also return to the staff. New to the Stripers are pitching coach Craig Bjornson, coach Stevie Wilkerson, head athletic trainer Dan Leja, and strength and conditioning coach Tyler Enns.

Tuiasosopo, 36, enters his fourth season as a minor league manager and fifth year coaching in the Braves organization. He owns a 205-211 (.493) career record, including a 140-137 (.505) mark over two seasons with the Stripers.

The 2022 campaign was a year of major recognition for Tuiasosopo. He served as the third base coach for the National League team during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Dodger Stadium on July 17. Following the minor league season, he managed the Scottsdale Scorpions in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, a circuit showcasing rising prospect players from all 30 MLB teams.

Tuiasosopo began his managerial career in 2019 with Class-A Rome, earning Atlanta's Bobby Cox Award for minor league manager of the year. After serving as a coach at the Braves Alternate Training Site in 2020, he was named the seventh manager in Gwinnett history on March 30, 2021. His debut as a Triple-A skipper on May 4, 2021 (a 10-9 win at Charlotte) saw him become both the youngest manager in Gwinnett history and the first former Gwinnett player to manage the club.

Prior to coaching, Tuiasosopo played 14 seasons in the organizations of the Seattle Mariners (2004-11), New York Mets (2012), Detroit Tigers (2013), Toronto Blue Jays (2014), Chicago White Sox (2014-15) and Braves (2016-17). The Bellevue, Washington native saw Major League time in parts of five seasons, logging 155 games with Seattle (2008-10), Detroit (2013), and Atlanta (2016).

Bjornson, 54, joins the Braves organization in 2023 and becomes the seventh pitching coach in Gwinnett history. The Tucson, Arizona native brings a wealth of Major League experience to the Stripers, having served as a bullpen coach with the Houston Astros (2012, 2014-17), Boston Red Sox (2018-20), and New York Mets (2022). He has also spent 13 seasons as a minor league pitching coach in the Montreal Expos, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Colorado Rockies organizations, including stints with Short-A Vermont (1999-01, 2003, 2005), Short-A Spokane (2002), High-A Brevard County (2004), Rookie-level Ogden (2006-08), and Rookie-level Casper (2009-11).

Prior to coaching, Bjornson pitched for three seasons (1991-93) in the Astros minor league system after signing as a non-drafted free agent out of Nicholls State University.

Mendez, 48, enters his third season as Gwinnett's hitting coach and 16th year in the Braves organization. The Caracas, Venezuela native has spent his entire coaching career in Atlanta's system, serving as a hitting coach with eight different clubs including Rookie-level Danville (2008-10, 2014), Class-A Rome (2011-12), the Gulf Coast League Braves (2013), Advanced-A Lynchburg (2014), Advanced-A Carolina (2015-16), Advanced-A Florida (2017), Double-A Mississippi (2018-19), and Gwinnett (2021-current).

Prior to coaching, Mendez played 16 minor league seasons (1991-2007) with the Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, and Braves organizations. He reached the Majors in 2003, playing 26 games for the Orioles.

Nevarez, 31, enters his third season as a coach with Gwinnett and sixth year coaching in the Braves organization. Atlanta's 20th-round pick out of Lubbock (Texas) Christian University in 2014, Nevarez played a four-year career as a catcher in the Braves' minors, reaching as high as Advanced-A Florida in 2017. The Santurce, Puerto Rico native went on to coaching positions with the Gulf Coast League Braves (2018) and Class-A Rome (2019) before joining Gwinnett in 2021.

Wilkerson, 31, enters his first season with both Gwinnett and the Braves organization as he makes his professional coaching debut. Selected by Baltimore in the eighth round of the 2014 draft out of Clemson University, he played seven seasons in the Orioles organization from 2014-21, including 166 Major League games from 2018-21. A native of Roswell, Georgia, Wilkerson played baseball at Pope High School in Marietta.

Leja, the new head athletic trainer, and Enns, the new strength and conditioning coach, join Gwinnett after serving identical roles with Double-A Mississippi in 2022. Both enter their third seasons in the Braves organization. Gaertner returns for his second season as Gwinnett's assistant athletic trainer, his second year in the Braves organization.

Gwinnett Stripers' Opening Night at Coolray Field is set for Friday, March 31 vs. Jacksonville. Single-game tickets for Opening Weekend (March 31-April 2 vs. Jacksonville) are on sale now at GoStripers.com/tickets.


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