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The Twins Next Important Coach

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 20 March 2018 · 1,279 views

minnesota twins garvin alston james rowson
A season ago, the Minnesota Twins brought in James Rowson as their hitting coach. Following the dismissal of Tom Brunansky, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine handpicked a candidate of a lesser known name. WIth what he had done with some of the hitter in the Yankees organization however, there was excitement regarding potential results. Fast forward a year, and the growth with some young Twins hitters was incredible. In 2018, Minnesota will be looking for more of the same from their new pitching coach, Garvin Alston.

The Twins are coming off a 2017 that saw records in starting pitchers used (16), and arms as a whole (36). Knowing this club is coming into 2018 with high expectations and again focused on the Postseason, getting more consistent results on the mound is a must. In that regard, there's no coach more integral to Minnesota taking the next step forward than Alston.

A pitcher for the Colorado Rockies during his brief MLB career, Alston has spent almost the entirety of his coaching life with the Oakland Athletics. He was twice a minor league pitching coach, while serving as a pitching coordinator in 2015. During the 2016 season, worked as the bullpen coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then he headed back to the Bay Area to serve in the same capacity for the A's a season ago.

Much like Rowson was able to help players like Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco foster success down the stretch a season ago, Alston will be tasked with growth in 2018. Kyle Gibson may be the area for greatest success, but there should be no shortage of impressionable arms looking to reach the next level.

Among all Twins starters, no one is looking to replicate their second half as much as Gibson is. The 3.57 ERA across his final 12 starts (and 2.92 ERA across the final 8) would position him as a treue middle-of-the-rotation arm. After scuffling hard out of the gate, and looking like a non-tender candidate halfway through 2017, Gibby officially turned it around. With the offseason in his rear view mirror, and a solid spring training under his belt, Gibson will need to replicate his late season efforts in hopes of bolstering the Twins chances.

It's not just veteran arms Alston will be tasked with maximizing though, in fact the vast majority aren't veteran arms. Jose Berrios looked the part of a good starter last year, but there's real star potential there and he'll be trying to harness that on an every start basis. Eventually pitchers like Felix Jorge, Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, and Zack Littell will find their way onto the Target Field mound. Keeping command in focus and not allowing the moment to be too big, Alston will be forced to challenge the young arms while also keeping them in check.

For Minnesota, a retooling of the starting rotation was needed, and pitchers like Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi fall more under the notion of tweaks rather than full-scale hand holding. The bullpen also was bolstered with reinforcements, and guys like Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney should be cut from a similar cloth as their veteran starting counterparts. In relief though, Garvin Alston will oversee a guy in Trevor Hildenberger who had a breakout 2017 and became one of Minnesota's best relievers.

Through spring training thus far, Hildenberger has seen results anything but reflective of his 2017 exploits. A reminder that the slate is wiped clean and a 9.4 K/9 along with a 1.3 BB/9 came out of that arm a year ago will go a long ways to determine how the Twins handle late innings. Taylor Rogers will be expected to take a step forward, and eventually Jake Reed, Tyler Kinley, and any number of other arms could be called upon to get meaningful outs.

While there's a good argument to be made that most managers misuse or at least under-utilize their bullpens, it will be on Alston and Molitor to find a blueprint that gets the most out of their club. The 46 year old pitching coach will need to dance between relating to players not much his junior, and a manager significantly his senior.

Evaluation of a pitching coach is relatively difficult, and even more so in a small sample size situation. We may not know what Alston is capable of or has become for the Twins after 2018, but you can bet than a significant positive impact would go a long ways towards success. Seen as a pitching guru, Falvey tabbed Alston his guy, and giving him a staff that has a little bit of everything should provide plenty of opportunity to grow. Minnesota needs pitching to become a strength, and Alston pioneering that movement would be massive.

For more from Off The Baggy click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • mikelink45 and nclahammer like this

I remember Johnny Sain who always seemed to do magic with the pitchers and piss off management.A good coach makes a difference for players and sometimes that is really significant.