Organizational veteran Pedro Lopez will return to Columbia, S.C. to lead the Fireflies in 2019, the team announced Tuesday. His staff will consist of three new faces to the team, including pitching coach Royce Ring, hitting coach Luis Rivera, and Gilbert Gomez.
Lopez, 50 on opening day, led the Fireflies to a 64-70 finish in 2018, good for fourth in the South Atlantic League Southern division. Entering his 12th season with the Mets, Lopez has also managed at Triple-A Las Vegas, Double-A Binghamton, Class-A St. Lucie, Low-A Savannah, Short Season-A Brooklyn, and Rookie Kingsport. The 2013 Eastern League Manager of the Year followed up a 13-year minor league career with seven seasons as a coach in the Texas Rangers organization.
Ring, 38, enters his fourth season as a coach in the Mets system, with the previous two spent in the same role for the Brooklyn Cyclones. Under Ring in 2018, the Cyclones pitching staff recorded the New York-Penn League’s second-lowest ERA and third-lowest WHIP. His staff ace, right-hander Jaison Vilera, led the circuit with a 1.83 ERA. Ring entered 99 games over five seasons in the major leagues, including 23.1 innings with the Mets in 2005 and 2006.
Gomez and Rivera, like Ring, have both played and coached in the organization. The 26-year-old Gomez reached as high as Double-A before becoming a minor league free agent following the 2015 season. He returned to the system in 2018 as a hitting coach in the Dominican Summer League. Rivera brings three years of managerial experience with Kingsport from 2015 to 2017. He was a member of Lopez’s staff in Binghamton that won the 2014 Eastern League championship.
Columbia’s performance staff includes athletic trainer Daichi Arima, strength and conditioning coach Sam Nickelsen, and mental skills coach Derek Swartout-Mosher.
The Fireflies open their season with a seven-game homestand beginning on April 4 in the newly renamed Segra Park.