The Reds announced this afternoon that they’ve given pitching coach Derek Johnson the additional title of director of pitching. He’ll remain the big league pitching coach as well as assuming this additional responsibility, which the team announced as “the development and communication of pitching philosophy/initiatives throughout the entire organization.” Previous director of pitching Kyle Boddy left the Reds last month.
Along with the new title, Johnson earned a contract extension, general manager Nick Krall told reporters (including Mark Sheldon of MLB.com). Johnson had already been under contract through the end of next season, but he’s now slated to be in Cincinnati beyond 2022. Krall didn’t specify the new contract length.
“We moved some things forward over the last couple of years. But at the end of the day, I felt D.J. was the best person to be in this role because I feel he’s one of the best pitching minds in baseball, if not the best,” Krall said (via Sheldon). “I think that from being able to drive the content and the curriculum from the Major League staff, and then working down through, was the best way to approach it. I thought he would be the best person to set it up to have success in the Minor Leagues as well.”
Johnson has served as Cincinnati’s pitching coach for the past three years, making the jump from the division-rival Brewers during the 2018-19 offseason. The Reds have done fairly well in that department during Johnson’s tenure, posting a 4.24 ERA that ranks twelfth leaguewide in spite of one of the league’s most hitter-friendly home ballparks. Cincinnati ranked 20th in ERA with a 4.41 mark this past season, although they finished middle-of-the-pack in SIERA (4.17) and strikeout/walk rate differential (14.6 percentage points).
Of course, Krall and his staff are making the decision to keep Johnson around (with more responsibility) based on far more than bottom-line results. Reds’ brass is obviously happy with Johnson’s communication skills in working with pitchers, and his new role should give him more of an impact on the club’s minor league pipeline. That could be particularly useful as a couple of the team’s top young arms approach big league readiness. Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo are each fairly recent top ten draftees and highly-regarded prospects. Both pitchers reached Triple-A Louisville at the end of this past season and could be in the majors relatively early in 2022.