The Jays have given their minor league pitching coordinator, Dane Johnson, a promotion to the big leagues, as Shi Davidi’s latest at Sportsnet informs us that the club will name him their bullpen coach for the 2015 season.
He takes over for Bob Stanley, who we have known since mid-October wasn’t coming back (he’s been reassigned within the organization, and will be the pitching coach in New Hampshire next season), and assumes the final open spot on the Jays’ coaching staff.
Johnson’s name shouldn’t be unfamiliar to Jays fans who follow things closely. In particular, you might remember him from the spring of 2013, when he was charged with helping to rebuild both Ricky Romero’s delivery and his confidence.
You might not think a thing like that — disaster that it was, particularly the promotion to the big leagues that Johnson publicly signed off on (for whatever that’s worth given the desperation the Jays’ staff faced at the time) — reflects very positively on Johnson, but I’d argue that there’s at least as much good as bad. It’s not his fault that Romero, unfortunately, seems to have by then been a lost cause, nor could anyone have expected him to publicly admit it if he had reservations about Romero’s readiness. And as John Lott’s piece on him from the National Post tells us, he was in constant communication with pitching coach Pete Walker — a good thing if, I think, you’re trying to read the tea leaves about their relationship — and a respected teacher then in his tenth year in his role as roving instructor.
“The Jays deemed the Romero project important enough to keep Johnson in Dunedin during a period when he typically makes the rounds of their minor-league teams,” Lott wrote at the time. In other words, Johnson was entrusted to work on their top project at the time, instead of his usual job working with pitchers at all levels for the Jays, including their top prospects. For example: Aaron Sanchez says in another article from the Post that Johnson, along with Lansing pitching coach Vince Horseman, helped him greatly with his changeup, and Johnson spoke about all manner of prospects back in October with Gerry McDonald of Batters Box.
Marcus Stroman also spoke of his work with Johnson in a piece by Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star back in May.
Clearly he’s a valued part of the organization. And with so many of the young arms that the Jays have drafted now starting to make their way to the majors, and likely to do so in 2015 and beyond — especially given the club’s aggressive promotion of certain guys — he seems like a a reasonable enough selection to be on the coaching staff, even if it’s nominally just as the bullpen coach.
Screengrab via Sportsnet