The Twins will dip into the college ranks to find their next pitching coach, as Dan Hayes of The Athletic reports (subscription link) that Minnesota is set to hire University of Arkansas pitching coach Wes Johnson to hold that same role in Minneapolis. Additionally, the club will name Jeremy Hefner as its bullpen coach, Derek Wetmore of 1500 ESPN reports.
Taken together, these additions represent the first outside hire under new manager Rocco Baldelli, though the team will still need to add a third base coach and a first base coach. Hitting coaches James Rowson and Rudy Hernandez were retained, and bench coach Derek Shelton will likely be back after finishing as the runner-up to both Baldell in Minnesota and Chris Woodward in Texas.
Prior to his time with the Razorbacks, Johnson was the pitching coach at Mississippi State and Dallas Baptist University. Otherwise, though, his resume doesn’t look like that of a typical MLB pitching coach. The out-of-the-box hire for the Twins comes on the heels of just a one-year tenure for recently dismissed pitching coach Garvin Alston (formerly the Athletics’ bullpen coach).
A look through some of the recent draftees who’ve come from Johnson’s programs at Arkansas, Mississippi State and Dallas Baptist includes Orioles 2018 third-rounder Blaine Knight, Yankees 2017 third-rounder Trevor Stephan, Cardinals righty Dakota Hudson, Mets righty Drew Smith and Yankees right-hander Chance Adams.
As for Hefner, the former MLB hurler will be changing roles within the organization. He’s also something of an unusual hire, as a 32-year-old who was pitching professionally as recently as 2016. As Wetmore explains, Hefner previously performed pitching-related advanced scouting and video work with the Twins.