The Minnesota Twins will need to make a midseason change to a vital role on their field staff with the sudden departure of pitching coach Wes Johnson for a lucrative college job at LSU.
Before opening a five-game set at Cleveland on Monday, the Twins announced that Johnson will work the series against the Guardians through Thursday. After that, the 50-year-old will return to his roots in the powerhouse SEC and assume his responsibilities as the new LSU baseball pitching coach.
The Twins lead the Guardians by two games in the division race and were still working to address how Johnson's job would be filled. Bullpen coach Pete Maki and assistant pitching coach Luis Ramirez figure to play a major part in replacing Johnson.
“His leadership, insight, creativity and ability to effectively work across a diverse team were hallmarks of his time with the Minnesota Twins," president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “His influence and impact will continue to be realized in Minnesota through the pitchers and staff members he helped mentor.”
The midseason move by a key assistant from a first-place team was startling, but Johnson’s arrival in 2019 was also unusual. He was widely believed to be the first college pitching coach to jump directly to the major leagues when the Twins hired him from Arkansas, the runner-up in the 2018 College World Series.
Johnson spent nine seasons as a college pitching coach before the Twins plucked him with a keen eye on his background in biomechanics. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology.
Johnson also had stops at Mississippi State, Dallas Baptist and Central Arkansas. He was a high school coach before entering the college ranks.
Johnson presided over pitching staffs for division champion teams in his first two years. The Twins have returned to the top of the AL Central this season with a 3.78 team ERA that ranks 11th in the majors. The Twins ranked 26th in ERA last year, fourth in 2020 and ninth in 2019 while Johnson was in charge of the staff.
Minnesota set a single-season franchise record with 1,463 strikeouts in 2019. José Berríos and Jake Odorizzi were All-Star selections in 2019, and Taylor Rogers made the team in 2021. Twins pitchers routinely praised Johnson’s energy, positivity and wisdom, as recently as Saturday night when Chris Archer threw five shutout innings with one hit allowed to Colorado.
“Wes is one of my biggest advocates,” Archer said after the 6-0 win at Target Field. “We do a lot of work, mental and physical, in between starts.”
The Athletic reported that Johnson will receive a hefty raise at LSU. The program officially announced the hire on Monday.
Royals' Santana dealt to M's
The Royals traded veteran slugger Carlos Santana and cash to the Seattle Mariners for righthanders Wyatt Mills and William Fleming on Monday, clearing the way for Kansas City to bring up hot prospect Vinnie Pasquantino .
The Royals sent Mills, a 27-year-old veteran who is on the 40-man roster, to Triple-A Omaha while designating righthander Ronald Bolaños for assignment. Fleming was assigned to Class-A Quad Cities.
The 36-year-old Santana is in the second year of a two-year, $17.5 million contract. But after hitting 19 homers in 158 games for Kansas City last season, the veteran first baseman is hitting just .216 with four homers through 52 games this season. Santana has been better at the plate over the past month with a .357 batting averaging and a 1.032 OPS in June.
Seattle is also receiving $4,269,231 from Kansas City to offset Santana’s remaining contract, with $1.5 million paid by the Mariners.