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Twins Announce Changes to Coaching Staff


On Wednesday, news broke that the Twins were reassigning hitting coach Edgar Varela and interim bench coach Kevin Morgan to player development positions. The two jobs need to be filled, along with the role that opened up when Bill Evers decided to retire. 

Someone had to be the scapegoat. 

Coming into the season, the Twins were expected to not only compete for a third straight AL Central division title but also to get some elusive playoff wins. There were legitimate World Series aspirations. 

Then came April. Things went bad, quick, and the Twins found themselves needing to win eight of their final 12 games just to avoid 90 losses. Regardless, the team finished in last place in the AL Central. 

The old saying goes, “You can’t fire all the players, so…” Well, someone had to be the scapegoat. On Wednesday, hitting coach Edgar Varela was that guy. 

Before spring training, it was announced that Bench Coach Mike Bell had been diagnosed with cancer and had surgery. Shortly before the season started, Bell passed away.  

The Twins didn’t immediately replace him with another bench coach, but Kevin Morgan eventually took on the job in the interim. He stayed in the role until the end of the season, but the assumption was that he would be reassigned at season’s end and the team would interview for the new bench coach.

Morgan will be reassigned to player development. He had been hired as the Minor League Field Coordinator before the 2020 season. Presumably he’ll take on that role again, or something similar.

Bill Evers is retiring, as we know. So, his role will also need to be filled. 

These two open positions are certainly not surprising. 

Back to co-hitting coach Edgar Varela, the team’s scapegoat for their disappointing 2021 season. After the Twins historic 2019 offensive season, then-hitting coach James Rowson became the Marlins offensive coordinator. Varela was hired as the hitting coach. In addition, the word “assistant’ was removed from assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez’s title. Hernandez was given credit by a lot of the players in 2019, and he will remain on the staff. 

Like Morgan, Varela came to the Twins organization recently. He became the minor league field coordinator before the 2019 season after several season as a coach in the Pirates organization. A year later, he was a big-league hitting coach

While the offense wasn’t great in 2021, it was not the biggest issue on the team. There were a lot of strikeouts. The batting average dropped some. While several hitters struggled, it was good to see Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver return to 2019 form. It was good to see Miguel Sano make some midseason adjustments and took off in the second half.   

Here is how the Twins ranked among the 30 MLB teams in several offensive categories: 

  • Batting Average (.241): 17th
  • On-Base Percentage (.314): 17th
  • Slugging Percentage (.423): 9th 
  • PS (.738): 11th 
  • Doubles (271): 11th 
  • Home Runs (228): 5th 
  • Runs (729): 14th 
  • Walks (525): 17th
  • Strikeouts (1,405): 14th 

To summarize, while the Twins offense wasn’t great, it was approximately league average, maybe slightly above. 

Meanwhile, the pitching staff crumbled. Jose Berrios was very good until traded in July. Taylor Rogers was an All Star and was terrific until injured in late July. However, Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ didn’t work as Twins starters and both were jettisoned. Michael Pineda missed time with injuries. Kenta Maeda needed Tommy John surgery. Even the second tier, the depth, was hurt. Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer were all hurt most of the season. On the positive side, Bailey Ober, the team's top rookie, is clearly a great example of what the Twins pitcher development philosophy is; increased velocity and use the analytics to get increased missed bats. 

Here is where the Twins pitching staff ranked among the 30 MLB teams: 

  • ERA (4.83): 26th
  • WHIP (1.32): 18th 
  • H/9 (8.8): 22nd 
  • BB/9 (3.1): 7th
  • K/9 (8.4): 22nd 
  • HR/9 (1.5): 25th 

That’s not to say that pitching coach Wes Johnson should have been reassigned. He certainly built up enough equity over his first two seasons to get some leeway.  The Twins pitching staff was a top ten staff the previous two seasons. 

2022 Twins Coaching Staff

  • Manager: Rocco Baldelli
  • Bench Coach: Job Open
  • Hitting Coach: Rudy Hernandez
  • Hitting Coach: Job Open 
  • Pitching Coach: Wes Johnson
  • Assistant Pitching Coach/Bullpen Coach: Pete Maki
  • 1B Coach/Outfield Coach: Tommy Watkins
  • 3B Coach/Infield Coach: Tony Diaz 
  • MLB Coach: Job Open 

And, with fewer limitations on MLB coaching staff, they could hire even more coaches. 

Listen, Edgar Varela probably didn’t deserve to get demoted, but to be fair, he wasn’t fired. The front office recognizes that he brings value to the organization and that value will be seen in the player development group. And the organization will look for a hitting coach that complements Rudy Hernandez. 

In his time with the Twins, Rocco Baldelli has been helped by strong bench coaches. In 2019, Derek Shelton was the runner-up for the managerial job and stuck around. He was very well respected and ended up getting the Pittsburgh Pirates manager job after the season. In 2020, Mike Bell was the bench coach after spending time in the Diamondbacks front office. He was already getting some managerial interviews last year. 

So will the Twins go with another baseball person without big-league managerial experience? Or, could someone like Jayce Tingler, who was just fired by the Padres, be an ideal candidate for the job? 

Bill Evers was the one coach on staff who worked with catchers, so it’s also likely that someone hired will be responsible for working with the backstops. 

It’s going to be an interesting offseason, and with these moves, it has begun. 

In addition, Edwar Colina was claimed off of waivers by the Texas Rangers. The hard-throwing righty had bone chips removed from his throwing elbow earlier this season and it was announced on Wednesday that he had a second procedure on his elbow recently. 

I have also heard that Andrew Albers has been DFAd. It’s also likely that several other Twins players have been, or will soon be, DFAd. The team had 49 players on the 40-man roster, with nine players on the 60-Day IL. They have a lot of roster management moves to make in the very near future.

 


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Thanks, Seth.

Have a feeling there will be more changes to the Twins coaching staff over the coming weeks.  Has anyone heard what the recent surgery to Colina's elbow was?  If it was TJ, then this recent move makes sense, albeit, the timing may have been better when all teams were making cuts in preparation for the Rule 5.

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I just came from reading a similar article in the Strib and the comment section was filled with complaints that the Twins where stupid and that James Rowson was the second coming. They talk about how high they were on Rowson when it is unlikely any of them have ever even laid eyes on the guy. The Marlins had the second worst offense in baseball while the Twins were 11th. Gawd drives me nuts.

 

With the Twins situation this year I don't think there is any scapegoating. They were caught a little off guard with their staff losses last year and scrambled to fill rolls. Varela has many good qualities, gets on with the players, speaks Spanish etc. My guess is they have come to realize what they want in a hitting coach and Edgar wasn't as strong in those areas so they moved him to a spot that is a better fit. 

These coaching moves getting a more technicle hitting coach, a pitching coach with big league experience who may not be as technicle as Wes but have more real game experience and a bench coach that they feels compliments Baldelli. I can see the logic behind all this and it could be a real difference maker. They had their team torn apart last year and now they are taking the time to carefully reconstruct it.

 

 

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34 minutes ago, Platoon said:

Co-hitting coaches?  Ugh! If you want a hitting coach fine, the find one you like and let him coach. Two hitting coaches mean two opinions, even if they are similar. 

Pretty much every team has two hitting coaches at this point. 

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9 guys on 60-day DL seems to be high, not sure how many could have stayed off it and the team just said ehh lets put them on 60 day to bring someone else in. Either way that is a lot of DFA's that have to happen. 

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3 hours ago, Platoon said:

Co-hitting coaches?  Ugh! If you want a hitting coach fine, the find one you like and let him coach. Two hitting coaches mean two opinions, even if they are similar. 

How about if one is a bunting and positional hitting coach instead of a hit-it-500-feet coach?

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6 hours ago, wabene said:

... They talk about how high they were on Rowson when it is unlikely any of them have ever even laid eyes on the guy. The Marlins had the second worst offense in baseball while the Twins were 11th. Gawd drives me nuts

Not a fair comparison.  Rowson was the Miami bench coach, not their hitting coach.

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17 hours ago, HokieRif said:

Not a fair comparison.  Rowson was the Miami bench coach, not their hitting coach.

He was their offensive coordinator. Not maybe exactly apples to apples but he has the ultimate responsibility for the Marlins production. 

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17 hours ago, LewFordLives said:

What exactly does a "bench coach" do?  I always just assumed it was the manager's drinking buddy, but if the front office is making the selection then it indicates some kind of higher purpose.

I would love to know as well... I kind of assumed it was a hybrid role of chief player morale officer, uber coordinator / go-between for the other coaches and coordinators, and someone for the manager to bounce ideas off of.  If anyone actually knows the answer I would love to hear it because its the most ambiguous coaching position in all of spots.

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