November 18, 2018

More unfamiliar names join Twins’ coaching staff

If you’re still trying to figure out who Rocco Baldelli is — former player, Twins manager — here’s a new group of names to ponder after the Twins on Friday rounded out the coaching staff with new hires for pitching, bullpen, first base and third base.

They will join existing coaches Derek Shelton (bench coach), James Rowson (hitting coach) and Rudy Hernandez (assistant hitting coach).

The new hires are Jeremy Hefner, assistant pitching coach; Tommy Watkins, first-base coach; Tony Diaz, third-base coach. But the most interesting hire is pitching coach, Wes Johnson, who has no previous professional coaching experience, according to MLB.com.

Johnson was the former pitching coach at the University of Arkansas, which played the Oregon State Beavers in the 2018 College World Series. (The Twins would later draft Beaver outfielder, Trevor Larnach, in the first round of the 2018 draft).

So why Johnson?

According to MLB.com:

He’s known as a forward-thinking, analytical coach who uses technology such as Trackman to help his pitchers find a consistent release point and unlock greater velocity.

According to the Strib:

Johnson in particular studies the mechanics of each pitch and pitcher — spin rates, release points and methods for adding mph to a fastball.

 

He developed a reputation in college for developing training methods designed specifically to help pitchers add velocity. Arkansas last year struck out 619 batters in 603⅓ innings and had a team ERA of 4.21, both ranking third in the SEC.

The other new coaches:

-Jeremy Hefner: Former advanced scout for the Twins. Pitched for the Mets in 2012-2013.

-Tommy Watkins: Former player and manager of Twins’ affiliates Double-A Chattanooga and Class A Advanced Fort Myers.

-Tony Diaz: Former first-base coach for the Colorado Rockies.

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.