Yesterday we learned that Derek Johnson was getting an additional title added to his role as pitching coach for the big league club. The Reds announced he would now also be the Director of Pitching for the organization. Later in the day he spoke, along with Nick Krall, about the job. Some of what I had speculated turned out to be on target with regards to how Johnson would handle the job addition – particularly during the season when he has to also be the pitching coach. There’s going to be a lot to read here, but I feel it’s worth providing the full quotes so you can get everything that was said and not just what one felt was worth quoting.

Derek Johnson on the job and responsibilities

“The last two weeks I was in instructional league and probably the first place I went, I wanted to get as many of our coaches that we currently have in our system and get them on board for what this is going to look like. I think there was some confusion or maybe just unsure as to what was going on at that point. It really was just to reassure them that we are pushing forward, a lot of the same initiatives are still in place, that we do want to keep looking at our processes – what’s good and what needs to be rectified and that sort of thing. Really, my first step is to get those guys on board. I think there’s real value in that. Number one, they are good coaches, and number two, they know our players very well. When you have that as the backdrop, or at least the starting point of it, you have to feel pretty good about the next steps.”

“The second piece is putting together a team, you can call them coordinators if you want to, but just people who are sort of in a smaller circle that will be driving the content, the curriculum, the initiatives, the directives – whatever you want to call it. That was another piece of being in instructional league. In the two weeks that I was there, I focused on that. I watched a little bit of our youngsters play – and that was fun too. But really the focus was getting guys on board, figuring out next steps for that, and then trying to assemble this team.”

“From a day to day perspective, I think this winter is going to be pretty busy. I think it’s making sure that A, we agree on certain things – that’s not coming from me. That’s coming from all over the place. That including Nick (Krall), that’s including Shawn Pender – our farm director – or Brad Meador (scouting director), that’s including our coaches, that’s including the people in our small circle of coordinators and agreeing on a direction we want to take this.”

“I think from spring training on, you’re getting into another ecosystem if you will, where now we’re pushing that content, we’re making sure we’re communicating that to all of those involved – number one our players. But then the other folks, our managers, our support staff, and just sort of be able to communicate sort of in both directions.”

“From there, once the big league season starts, then I think it has to be a situation where you sort of hand the keys off – that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be involved, it just means I will be less involved simply because of the nature of the big league season. Trust is a big part of this. Developing that trust, not only from my end to trust them, but their end to trust me, and then figuring out a way to communicate that as the season goes on.”

On how he will be able to find the time to add responsibilities

“I don’t sleep much. That’s really the honest trust. You make time. I think there’s more time in the day than any of us ever really give us credit for. We feel like we’re swamped, then we look at the person next to us and we realize how little we really do. I do know that it’s going to be a challenge – I’m not unaware of that at all. I know that especially during the season, but a lot of that in my mind is a mentality, too. You’re winning, you feel great, you’re losing you don’t. It’s still making time for the things that become critical or important to you. This is something that I’ve just had to add to my list of things each and every day.”

“The challenge in my mind really will be this winter in developing out what we’ve already started. I do want to make sure that we understand that. I think there have been some really great things that have happened for us in our minor league system. I think we’ve had pitchers who have gotten better, I think we’ve driven some initiatives that we didn’t have when we all first got here, or at least when I first got here. So there are some really great pieces to where we’re starting back up on. So from there it’s taking this winter and just trying to kind of hammer out those edges.”

“During the season there’s much more of a challenge. There is all of the travel, there is the winning and the losing, there is taking care of the 12-13 guys you have in-house. Certainly, that has to be my priority at those times. Again though, I think there’s more time in the day, though, than we give it credit for. And it’s just having to utilize it from that end to do the best we can to communicate with to that small team or small group of people that are going to be driving this from the ground up.”

How does your background in college, the minors, and as a big league pitching coach make you the perfect fit for this kind of job?

“I’ve seen a lot of ends of it. Beginning and ends would be a way of saying it. Using my college career, and seeing the things that I saw there, certainly gave me a background or a back drop for what was next with the Cubs. The time with the Cubs gave me a back drop for what has happened in the big leagues. Kind of bringing that full circle, I feel that I’ve seen a lot of different levels of the game. Whether that’s recruiting a 15-year-old kid, whether that’s taking him from a freshman to a junior in college, whether that’s taking a kid from the Dominican to Double-A as a coordinator, and then tying that together with the Major League experience I think I have some things to offer from those perspectives.”

When you talk about the coordinator positions – are these new positions or are these existing positions?

“We have secured one coordinator to this point and we’re looking to add another. Bryan Conger, who was here last year, I’m not sure what his title was – I think it was just pitching coordinator (it was) – he will be come back for another year. Really happy to have Bryan. I think he’s very well versed in a lot of different areas of the game, and again, kind of going back to the idea, he knows the players and has a really good understanding of the process we use to get there.”

“Would like to hire another one alongside of him, who again thinks a little differently than he does. Be able to kind of cut up the duties, so to speak, and make sure that we’re covering as many bases as we possibly can on both sides of the ball. At the end of the day whether you want to call it traditional or non-tradition, whether you want to call it art and science, whether you want to call it skills and abilities- we’re dealing with those every single day and so to make a pitcher complete we want to have as big of a picture or as clear of a picture as we can possibly have. We’ve used this term a lot lately and I think it makes some sense, is just balance. Being able to balance what we’re able to give to our players, helping them become balanced as pitchers and then helping out coaches do the same.”

Reds lose Joe Mather to Arizona

For the second time in three years, the Cincinnati Reds have lost a hitting coach to another organization. Joe Mather, who had served as the assistant hitting coach and Director of Hitting for the Reds in 2020 and 2021, has been hired to be the hitting coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He joins Donnie Ecker as assistant hitting coaches that have been hired away (San Francisco Giants) since the end of the 2019 season.

Joey Votto and Tucker Barnhart both spoke with Zach Buchanan of The Athletic about Mather’s time in Cincinnati and how he helped them in his time with the organization. For Mather, he’s returning to an organization he’s previously worked for – he had been with Arizona’s farm system prior to joining the Reds organization two years ago.

19 Responses

  1. Bred

    A former 11 veteran pitcher who had coached in the big leagues and had managed internationally, told me he could not get a pitching coach position. He was told by several organizations if he’d get his Driveline certificate he be good candidate. He refused to go because he said none of that taught a pitcher to get outs. He is definitely an old school guy. Perhaps, that was the disconnect with Boddy. There are two sides to every coin, and maybe, Boddy was only interested in the analytic side. I don’t know, but I am glad DJ is at the helm. The question on if this change was good, will be answered at the end of next season when last season’s minor league success can be compared next year’s.

    • MK

      Just reading between the lines it sounds like there was an issue with Boddy’s communication style with staff, not necessarily the players. Johnson talked a lot about the trust of his pitching coach staff. I remember when Boddy was hired he went into depth about his process for evaluating the coaches in the system. I know if in my work career an outsider came in and made those kind of comments they had dug a hole. I thought then that was really going to create some animosity and challenge positive communication, especially by a guy with little or no experience in pro baseball.

      • DaveCT

        Yes and it could also mean some are entrenched and hard to get moved off their respective high ground.

  2. E

    It’s good to see that DJ is still pushing forward, and that they’re continuing what Boddy started, not tearing it down. A lot of minor league pitchers made great steps this year, hopefully the same happens next. I’m cautiously optimistic, despite how devastated I was when Boddy left.

  3. LDS

    DJ sounds like a competent manager at least. Not as polished perhaps as the typical corporate suit but hit on several key themes. I still question whether Boddy’s approach was universally applicable or simply worked well for guys like Bauer (though behavioral counseling may have served him better). Personally, fewer injuries and blown out arms would be one sign of success to me.

    • David

      Behavorial counseling for Bauer? Ok, that made me laugh.
      He does seem to have some kind of problem with personal relationships, so you may be right. 🙂

  4. Old Big Ed

    The level of pearl-clutching on Johnson’s new title has been astounding to me. There aren’t 20 people on the planet who know as much about pitching as Derek Johnson. Steve Mancuso, who isn’t one of the other 19 pitching experts, almost needed an ambulance, given his Twitter panic.

    Derek Johnson is fully capable of handling a major league pitching staff, and managing other people to develop minor league pitchers. It is a good thing that the development staff have somebody like Johnson to help and direct them.

    The best management strategy, pretty much always, is to hire good people and then get out of their way. The Reds are doing that with Johnson.

    • Michael

      @old ed,

      I agree that Derek Johnson knows pitching in and out. The key will be hiring people below him that can execute his plan. In season with his primary duties his subordinates will have to be proactive and need a lot of leash

    • TR

      I’ve been a Reds fan forever and do not remember when pitching took top billing as it does with Derek Johnson. Slugging has usually been the name card for the Reds going back to the days of Big Klu & Co.

    • Private Gripweed

      Steve’s pretentious ramblings drove me away from this site for a while. I was glad to see him create his own platform.

  5. RedsGettingBetter

    We can´t do anything different of just wait and watch this process how’s gonna result. In my opinion It seems a very hard challenge however it sounds good to come to a successfull end if they make it.
    By the way , now that DJ is getting more hierarchy, I wonder if it is increasing the likelihood of Miley being picked up by 2022 season…

    • TR

      It makes sense to me. Miley was a pleasant surprise last season. if it can be done financially, bring him back. Good lefties are at a premium.

  6. Redsvol

    Live DJ and so glad he’s gonna be around longer and in charge of more. I believe Milwaukee is still benefitting from the principles DJ put in place years ago.

  7. votto4life

    My only concern is the workload. It seems a bit much for one person. I would like to see DJ make Director of pitching his full time role. He can hire a pitching coach.

    • David

      A sign of a good manager is being able to delegate the work. He is looking for people to fill some slots.
      And yes, you are right. One guy cannot do it all.
      I do think this is the right direction. There has to be a common idea about how to teach pitchers to use their talent to be most effective. The message can’t keep changing from A to High A, to AA and AAA, then the ML.
      I think in the old days, it was about drafting or signing guys to throw hard, and then somewhere along the line, teach the curve or slider.
      For example, Don Gullet just had a fastball. His wrist was too thick to throw a conventional curve (eventually, he did learn a knuckle – curve), and he threw a slider, which was almost has fast as his fastball and had only a little break.
      Don was the youngest pitcher to win 100 games, then hurt his shoulder and his career was over.

    • TR

      As stated above, it also seems to me a bit of an overload for DJ.

      • Votto4life

        Yeah, as DJ mentioned in the interview, once the season starts he will be very busy with games and traveling. I would think it then becomes more difficult to maintain a bird’s eye view of the pitching throughout the entire organization.

        I Just think it would be better if he would hire a pitching coach. DJ can suit up and join David Bell in the dugout when his schedule permits.

        I think DJ would miss being in the dugout. It’s understandable I guess. If serving in both roles makes DJ happy then it’s important.

        I have a great deal of confidence in DJ. If anyone can handle both roles, it is DJ.

  8. Indy Red Man

    Not related to DJ, but I think Dusty has been flawless thru 5 games! His best reliever turned 2-1 into 2-3 last night or they’d be up 3-2. He changed the lineup and they rallied from 4-0 to win 9-5. No way in hades that Bell could go 5 games without doing something stupid. It just isn’t possible. I’m rooting for Dusty and my investment))

    • TR

      The Astros have a recent history that’s not very attractive, but nevertheless, I’m rooting for Dusty to get a WS win to top off a great career.