Reds name Johnson new pitching coach
CINCINNATI — There is an old saying that when a door closes, a window opens.
When that window opened, the Cincinnati Reds front office climbed in head-first as they made the first coaching hire for new manager David Bell.
Derek Johnson had been the pitching coach for the Milwaukee Brewers, but Johnson had a brief window in his contract that allowed him to speak with other teams.
The Reds made Johnson an offer far better than the Brewers or any other teams and — coupled with the fact Johnson lives not too far away in Nashville — convinced him on Tuesday to join the team. The final deal was reached on Wednesday and announced on Friday.
“When we became aware of that window, he immediately moved to the top of our list and became our focus,” said Reds’ president of baseball operations Dick Williams.
Johnson said his decision wasn’t very difficult.
“This was an opportunity for me to see what was out there,” Johnson said of his window of opportunity.
“It didn’t take very long, but from the beginning of it the Reds were very persistent. They made me feel extremely comfortable. They made me feel extremely wanted. At the end of the day, it felt like this was the right move for my family and I.”
Johnson has worked with pitchers and seen their success rise. That list includes Wade Miley, Gio Gonzalez, Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson, Josh Hader and Jhoulys Chacin. From 2002-2012, Johnson was the pitching coach at Vanderbilt University. In his last three seasons with the Commodores he also served as associate head coach.
He was the National Pitching Coach of the Year in 2004 and National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010 and in 2011 helped lead Vanderbilt to its first College World Series appearance, guiding a staff that featured eight pitchers who were selected in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft.
Johnson spent three seasons with the Brewers who reached the National League Championship Series this past season before losing in seven games to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Milwaukee had an overall 3.94 earned run averaged the past three seasons which was fourth-best in the NL behind the Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals.
As a college coach, Johnson has mentored 13 pitchers who have appeared in the Major Leagues including Jason Frasor (Southern Illinois), Lenny DiNardo (Stetson), Jeremy Sowers (Vanderbilt), Jensen Lewis (Vanderbilt), Mike Minor (Vanderbilt), David Price (Vanderbilt), Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt), Nick Christiani (Vanderbilt), Taylor Hill (Vanderbilt), Drew Verhagen (Vanderbilt), Caleb Cotham (Vanderbilt), Drew Hayes (Vanderbilt) and Matt Buschmann (Vanderbilt).
Also on Friday, the Reds reinstate infielder/outfielder Alex Blandino, right-handed pitcher Keury Mella and outfielder Jesse Winker from the 60-day disabled list; claimed right-handed pitcher Matt Bowman off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals; announced infielder Dilson Herrera and outfielder Mason Williams cleared waivers and were outrighted to Louisville.
Right-handed pitcher Austin Brice was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Angels and infielder/outfielder Brandon Dixon was claimed off waivers by the Detroit Tigers.