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  • Pitching Coach Wes Johnson to Abruptly Leave Twins


    John Bonnes

    In a surprise move, Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson will be leaving the Minnesota Twins to become LSU's pitching coach. 

    Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Twins Video

    D1 Baseball's Kendall Rogers broke news today that LSU has hired Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson as their new pitching coach, resulting in a midseason change of one of the Twins' most important coaches. Johnson was hired prior to the 2019 season from Arkansas, where he was the pitching coach, a trailblazing move for a MLB team. Now he will return to that same conference as a rival team's pitching coach. 

    Losing Johnson during the offseason would be a story in and of itself. The Twins pitching staff ranked 22nd in ERA (4.50) in 2018, the year before Johnson replace Garvin Alston. In 2019, they improved to 8th in the league with a 4.18 ERA. This year, the team ERA is 3.79, ranking 11th in the majors, despite pitching being perceived as the team's Achilles heal heading into the season. At the very least, he's been seen as a cornerstone in the organization's renewed focus on pitching over the last several years. 

    Having the move happen in the middle of the baseball season, especially when the team is in first place in the AL Central, makes it a major story.  Per Dan Hayes, the Twins just found out about his talks with LSU on Saturday. He also reports that his talks with the Twins did not include a request for more money. With the news being so unexpected, it is not clear what factors played into this sudden decision.

    Hayes does add that LSU was very aggressive, so it may be that he is just interested in LSU. They just completed their first season with new coach Jay Johnson, who guided them to a 40-22 record in the SEC, good for third place in the West. 

    Aaron Gleeman reports that Johnson's tenure will end after this week's 5-game series versus the Cleveland Guardians. At that time his role will be filled by bullpen coach Pete Maki, although fully replacing him will be a group effort. Maki has been with the coaching staff since 2020, and been in the organization since 2017 when he joined them as their minor league pitching coordinator. 

    More to come. Feel free to comment as additional news breaks. 

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    Interesting. You would think collegiate ball would pretty much be winding down.

    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2022/06/twins-pitching-coach-wes-johnson-hired-as-lsu-pitching-coach.html

     

    Basically the Twins have duo coaches at both of their top levels in the minors. Virgil Vasquez or Cibney Bello could easily advance, as they have worked with a number of the pitchers in the system. Pete Larson and Dan Urbina are at AA Wichita. Justin Willard could also advance out of the complex. There's four coaches now with the Complex team, plus assistant Zach Bove.

     

    Be interesting to see what happens.

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    8 minutes ago, Rosterman said:

    Interesting. You would think collegiate ball would pretty much be winding down.

    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2022/06/twins-pitching-coach-wes-johnson-hired-as-lsu-pitching-coach.html

     

    Basically the Twins have duo coaches at both of their top levels in the minors. Viurgil Vasquez or Cibney Bello could easily advance, as they have worked with a number of the pitchers in the system. Pete Larson and Dan Urbina are at AA Wichita. Justin Willard could also advance out of the complex. There's four coaches now with the Complex team, plus assistant Zach Bove.

     

    Be interesting to see what happens.

    Just updated.  Pete Maki (bullpen coach) will be promoted to ptiching coach.

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    Well, that's a bummer that he's leaving but I think I can understand the move.  Something tells me that he is just happier with the college ranks.

    So while the suddenness of it all feels really awkward (from a professional standpoint I would have preferred him to finish the season... but it is what it is), I wish him well. 

    Also not at all surprised by the report of LSU being really aggressive in the pursuit.  That about sums up SEC (and major college for that matter) baseball theses days.  Especially with the success that Tennessee has had the last couple of years, I am not at all surprised that LSU went out and hooked a "big fish" pitching coach who has had huge success at every level. 

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    Weird.

    But the good coaches always leave. That's how it works.

    Trying to stay positive on this one.

    That, and I know nothing about collegiate baseball.

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    Most likely, LSU gave him a deadline. They don't want to wait until after the Twins season to have a pitching coach. Also, I would imagine that the LSU job would be significantly more. So, it was pretty much now or never for this opportunity. 

    So yeah, it stinks for the Twins right now. Maki will be fine. He knows all the same stuff. Luis Ramirez is good. They may just have someone fill is as a bullpen coach for the rest of this season and take their time hiring the replacement. The Twins front office has done a great job of hiring coaches as shown by so many getting taken by other schools and organizations. 

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    I respected what he did here, but I do not respect leaving the team midseason with no warning. This is a high-profile position that requires a full season commitment. That must have been clear, right?

    The job either meant something here, or it didn't. Apparently, it didn't ... or it didn't mean much. For the players who built a relationship with Wes, this leaves them - and the team - in a tough spot.

    Might want to clarify expectations of the job for the next pitching coach.

     

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    53 minutes ago, MN_ExPat said:

    Well, that's a bummer that he's leaving but I think I can understand the move.  Something tells me that he is just happier with the college ranks.

    So while the suddenness of it all feels really awkward (from a professional standpoint I would have preferred him to finish the season... but it is what it is), I wish him well. 

    Also not at all surprised by the report of LSU being really aggressive in the pursuit.  That about sums up SEC (and major college for that matter) baseball theses days.  Especially with the success that Tennessee has had the last couple of years, I am not at all surprised that LSU went out and hooked a "big fish" pitching coach who has had huge success at every level. 

    It appears LSU was charging hard. In the Tweets up above it's reported his salary went from $350k to $750k, so that maaaaay have factored into his decision. 

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    59 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    That really is shocking and I would love to know more about the personal reasoning that went into this commitment. 

    I would love to hear it as well. Unfortunately I think we’ll get a quick acknowledgment and good luck to him from the FO and Baldelli. Vikings fans just learned this year why Norv Turner left mid season in 2016 once the GM and Head Coach were fired. Unless Falvey, Levine, or Baldelli are out the door too they’re not going to air the dirty laundry. 

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    I can respect Wes wanted a different job. I have changed jobs. There was no dirty laundry. I don’t think we should expect there was dirty laundry. Unfortunately when no dirty laundry is found people will start making stuff up.

    I can’t respect leaving in the middle of a big project… in this case a major league season. 

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    9 minutes ago, jorgenswest said:

    I can’t respect leaving in the middle of a big project… in this case a major league season. 

    The college season calendar is sufficiently different than the pros', that I wonder if (at least at the big time college programs) your principle would mean never leaving one, for the other.

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    8 minutes ago, Kevin H said:

    I don't understand. Doesn't he have a contract through the end of the MLB season? How can coach resign in the middle of the season if Twins don't let him out of his contract?

    Would you not let him go, if you were them? He's made it clear he wants to go, he's getting double the pay.... What kind of employer would stand in his way? Would you want to work at such a place? I wouldn't. 

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    9 minutes ago, ashbury said:

    The college season calendar is sufficiently different than the pros', that I wonder if (at least at the big time college programs) your principle would mean never leaving one, for the other.

    Good point. I hope it would not change my principle. 

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    17 minutes ago, jorgenswest said:

    I can respect Wes wanted a different job. I have changed jobs. There was no dirty laundry. I don’t think we should expect there was dirty laundry. Unfortunately when no dirty laundry is found people will start making stuff up.

    I can’t respect leaving in the middle of a big project… in this case a major league season. 

    People switch jobs in the middle of projects all the time. Companies lay people off in the middle of projects. Take the money and the job you want....

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    22 minutes ago, Kevin H said:

    I don't understand. Doesn't he have a contract through the end of the MLB season? How can coach resign in the middle of the season if Twins don't let him out of his contract?

    Same way the Twins could choose to fire him (or any other staff member) before the end of the regular season.  Might be different if he were leaving for another big league club, unless a promotion were involved.

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    11 minutes ago, dxpavelka said:

    Same way the Twins could choose to fire him (or any other staff member) before the end of the regular season.  Might be different if he were leaving for another big league club, unless a promotion were involved.

    Also, even if the contract wording were iron-clad, and even if they are angry at some level, the Twins likely invoke enlightened self-interest to decide that continuing to employ someone who doesn't want to be there anymore isn't good for anybody.

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    I think he helped revive the careers of a few Twins pitchers, including Duffey and Thielbar. Got a few more ticks on Jax's heater, too. He knows how to teach that specific kinetic chain required to throw a baseball in the mid to upper 90's. Maybe he even taught Duran to throw 103 without his arm falling off, I don't know. 

    Anyway, a good pitching coach, but there are others. Not too worried. Good luck to Johnson at LSU. 

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    Fwiw, this story from The Athletic in May does not sound like someone particularly upset with his job. It may just be a preference for college ball: 

    Baldelli has one rule: Respect your teammates. Johnson has only one, too: He can’t be the only one in that dugout believing in you. It’s one of the first things he said to Paddack when he came over: You’re one of the best in the world, don’t forget that. It resonated.

    “The past few years I’ve been searching with a little doubt on the mound not having that conviction and confidence every single pitch. Getting hit around a little bit you can search up there on the mound,” Paddack said. “(Johnson) was like, ‘Look at what you did in ’19 before you had a curveball and a slider.’ He said, you’re a better pitcher than you were in ’19. Our goal is to put it all together now.”

    Paddack calls Johnson “a little firecracker” infusing the clubhouse with positive energy. Johnson is quick to credit the staff Baldelli has assembled and the way all the new pitchers have quickly bought into what the Twins are doing. The learning is just beginning. The competition to constantly one-up the last guy and push the Twins rotation and the team forward — what Buxton dubs the “bulldog mentality” — is something Minnesota’s starters aim to continue all season.

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    1 hour ago, dxpavelka said:

    Same way the Twins could choose to fire him (or any other staff member) before the end of the regular season.  Might be different if he were leaving for another big league club, unless a promotion were involved.

    The difference being, an employer would be obligated to pay a contract to its completion, even if they fired an employee.

     

    This is pretty shady, IYAM. I'd be surprised if money is the only issue.

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    1 hour ago, Mike Sixel said:

    These are jobs and workers have as much right to leave as the employer has to fire them. 

    This discussion seems to have shifted to whether Johnson had the right to leave (of course he does), but I think we were arguing about if it was right or decent of him to leave in this way and at this point in the season (of course it wasn't).

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Wes. 

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