Where would the Twins braintrust turn for their new pitching coach? A former pitcher? An analytics-focused stathead? Dick Such?
As it turns out, they went to college.
Multiple media outlets reported Thursday that the Twins hired University of Arkansas pitching coach Wes Johnson. He is not the former Minnesota Timberwolf, but rather a lifelong pitching coach, first in high school and Legion ball, then at college with stops in Central Arkansas, SAU, Dallas Baptist, and Mississippi State before landing in Fayetteville.
(Note: the link above comes from the “Sully Says” column at KATV.com. It is not, to the best of my knowledge, written by hero pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, but this Sully makes it known that Johnson is “a grinder” and it is a very high compliment.)
The Strib’s Phil Miller makes it abundantly clear why the Twins looked to the SEC for their next pitching guru:
“(Johnson has) plenty of experience at drawing talent — and miles per hour — out of the pitchers he’s worked with.
One recent profile, in fact, labeled him ‘the czar of velocity.’”
It is safe to say that “pitch to contact” is dead, buried, and the earth around it salted.
In addition, the Twins added former Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner as bullpen coach, replacing Eddie Guardado. Those of you with Athletic subscriptions may remember their February story on Hefner, who was an advance scout for the Twins at the time.
Addendum: h/t to Gleeman for this thread from Kyle Boddy, discussing (approvingly) the Twins turn to the college ranks throughout their player development system