Reports: Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson leaving for LSU

Johnson has previous college coaching experience. Before joining the Twins, he served as Arkansas' pitching coach as it reached the College World Series final in 2018.

Minnesota Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson, left, with pitcher Sonny Gray during spring training. Johnson is reportedly leaving the team to take on the same role at Louisiana State University.
TNS file photo

MINNEAPOLIS -- Pitching coach Wes Johnson is heading back to the college ranks in a surprising turn of events, the Minnesota Twins confirmed, departing the team to take a job as the pitching coach of the Louisiana State University baseball team.

News of Johnson’s departure broke Sunday afternoon as the first-place Twins were headed to Cleveland for a five-game, four-day series against the Guardians. Johnson is currently with the team in Cleveland and will remain in his job through the conclusion of the series there on Thursday.

Johnson has been the Twins’ pitching coach since 2019, hired away from the University of Arkansas to fill the role on manager Rocco Baldelli’s staff, and he has largely been lauded by players for his work with them. Twins pitchers have a cumulative 46.8 fWAR (Wins Above Replacement per FanGraphs) since Johnson took over, which is 10th among major league teams in that time frame.

The pitching coach was an early adopter of the TrackMan system and other forms technology and is well-versed in biomechanics, weaving both into his coaching. His forward-thinking was something that made him appealing to the Twins when they hired him.

Johnson’s departure creates a hole on a coaching staff that has seen its fair share of turnover over the past couple years and creates questions about how the Twins will replace him. Bullpen coach Pete Maki and assistant pitching coach Luis Ramirez, as well as run prevention coordinator Colby Suggs and vice president of baseball operations strategy and innovation Josh Kalk will all likely play a big role in helping fulfill some of his duties.


Ahead of this season, the Twins added bench coach Jayce Tingler, hitting coach David Popkins, first base coach Hank Conger, assistant pitching coach Luis Ramirez to the staff and tailored the job responsibilities of Tommy Watkins and Tony Diaz during an offseason overhaul.

Smith to IL

The Twins lost another player to injury on Sunday, placing reliever Joe Smith on the 15-day IL with upper trapezius tightness, something which Baldelli said the veteran had been dealing with for a few days.

Smith, who has a 2.78 ERA this season, last pitched on Thursday in a dramatic seventh inning in which he loaded the bases and then wriggled out of the jam.

To fill the roster spot, the Twins recalled lefty Jovani Moran from Triple-A St. Paul.

“With all the work we’re getting, I can’t be sitting there not able to take the ball,” Smith said. “Where we’re at right now, that’s not fair to them. So just got to take care of it, knock it out and get back in there. A week to get healthy and a week to get back up.”


The Twins are planning on having Josh Winder serve as the 27th man and start one game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. The Twins have not yet said which game he will start and which one Devin Smeltzer will pitch in.


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