By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds promise to spend money this off-season already has paid dividends — not for a pitcher or pitchers, but for a new pitching coach.
The Reds outbid the Milwaukee Brewers for highly-regarded pitching coach Derek Johnson.
Johnson spent the last three seasons as Milwaukee’s pitching coach and the Brewers wanted to keep him, but reportedly the Brewers couldn’t match the Reds’ offer.
So Johnson becomes the first coach added to new manager David Bell’s staff, a move first reported by Ken Rosenthal, a locked-in MLB insider.
The Reds have not acknowledged the deal, but multiple sources report that Johnson will replace last season’s interim pitching coach Danny Darwin.
Adam McKelvy, MLB.com’s beat writer in Milwaukee reported that Brewers general manager David Stearns had extensive negotiations with Johnson for the past week, trying to retain him for manager Craig Counsell’s staff, but couldn’t convince him to stay.
And it was hinted that the Reds beat the Brewers offer by a large margin.
Johnson began his coaching career at pitching coach at Vanderbilt University for 10 years. Thirteen Vanderbilt pitchers advanced to the majors under Johnson’s walk, including World Series star David Price and Sonny Gray of the New York Yankees. He then worked in the Chicago Cubs minor league system before the Brewers hired him as pitching coach in November of 2015.
“Obviously, we valued D.J.,” Stearns told McKelvy. “D.J. did a tremendous job and helped us a lot over the last three years. As an organization has success other teams take notice and when they get the opportunity they are going to go after some of your people.”
Stearns and the Brewers also lost hitting instructor Darnell Coles, who left to become hitting instructor for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While the Brewers came within one win of making it to the World Series this year after winning the National League Central, Johnson’s pitching staff was ranked eighth of the 30 MLB teams with a 3.94 earned run average during Johnson’s three years.
The Brewers came within a game of making the World Series without a No. 1 pitcher on the staff, Johnson helped several pitchers enjoy success, guys like veterans Gio Gonzalez and Wade Miley, while helping the development of young pitchers like Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson and Jhoulys Chacin.