The Twins named Rocco Baldelli their new manager a few weeks ago, and over the last couple of days have worked to fill the other openings on their coaching staff. Bench Coach Derek Shelton, who had been a candidate to take over the top spot both in Minnesota and Texas, will return. James Rowson will also stay on as hitting coach for his third season.
Garvin Alston is out as pitching coach, replaced by former University of Arkansas pitching coach Wes Johnson. I will admit that I am not terribly knowledgeable about what makes a good coach, but I do know that hiring coaches from college into the Majors is an unusual move, but it doesn’t seem like it should be. It’s not a rare move in other sports, and players in the low minors (where most debutante coaches come from) are about the same age as college athletes, so it doesn’t seem like a big stretch of the imagination that Johnson will be capable in his new role. Hiring straight from college is definitely out-of-the-box thinking, but it’s also one of those thoughts that make you wonder why nobody has come up with it before.
The Twins also figured out their base coaches after letting go of Jeff Smith and Gene Glynn. The new first base coach is a popular and very successful manager from the Twins minor leagues. Tommy Watkins had a cup of coffee with the Twins in 2007, and has remained in the organization for most of his professional career. He will be a familiar face for players that came up through the organization, and will bring a similar youthful spirit to the organization as Baldelli.
At third base, the Twins hired Tony Diaz from the Rockies. Diaz was a base coach with the Rockies as well, but I think more importantly, he becomes the most prominent Latin American coach on the Twins roster, perhaps ever. Diaz is 41 and from the Dominican Republic, joining Venezuelan assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez as native Spanish speakers on the staff.
The new hires may or may not work out, but they are certainly breaths of fresh air into a coaching staff that has been stuffy for far too long. The Twins can’t be blamed for trying something new.