The Twins will have a new hitting coach in 2017, the team announced Tuesday, ending their association with former Twins All-Star Tom Brunansky.
Brunansky and first base coach Butch Davis will not have their contracts renewed, but the rest of manager Paul Molitor’s staff — pitching coach Neil Allen, bullpen coach Eddie Guardado, bench coach Joe Vavra, third-base coach Gene Glynn and assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez — will return.
New Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey made the decisions Tuesday at the MLB general managers’ meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., and informed Molitor and the coaching staff of his decisions.
“Coaches are hired to get fired. That’s just part of baseball,” Brunansky, an All-Star with the Twins in 1985, said of the end to his four-year stint with Minnesota. “I wish it had worked out differently, but I wish the boys well.”
Those boys include Brian Dozier, who credited Brunansky’s work with him as one reason for his record-setting 42 home runs in 2017.
“Bruno helped me learn to stay behind the ball,” Dozier said in September. “I always get good feedback from him. He’s been an open book for me.”
But the Twins never scored more than 722 runs in any of the 56-year-old Brunansky’s four seasons, ranking below the AL scoring average in three of them. And they ranked 10th or worse in batting average, and 13th or worse in strikeouts, in three of the four years.
Davis, 58, hired two seasons ago, was in charge of outfield defense, in addition to his duties as first base coach.
“We have a staff that’s very talented, that works very hard,” Molitor said Monday at Falvey’s introductory news conference. “They’ve heard all my arguments. We’ve talked at length. Now they’ll put their heads together and decide who they want to keep.”
That they decided to keep Allen, in the wake of one of the Twins’ worst seasons ever from their pitching staff, was perhaps the most surprising decision. The Twins, forced by injury and ineffectiveness to use a club-record 29 different pitchers in 2016, allowed 889 runs, or 128 runs more than Oakland’s second-worst pitching staff in the AL. Their 5.08 staff ERA was the third worst in franchise history.
“We had to use some guys who were not quite ready for the major leagues,” Allen said. “People who know the game of baseball, they can see what we had to operate with last year. If people want to hold me responsible, that’s their prerogative, and we all know the numbers weren’t very pretty. But it’s nice to know we’ll get a chance to redeem ourselves, because I think we absolutely can get this back on track.”
Allen said he wasn’t certain whether he would be retained for a third season, even though the Twins posted a respectable 4.08 ERA during his 2015 debut season. His situation seemed even more precarious, given that he served a six-week suspension after being arrested for allegedly driving while intoxicated in May.
So “I was just ecstatic, very happy, to get that phone call from” Falvey on Tuesday, he said. “I’m looking forward to 2017 and especially looking forward to putting 2016 way, way behind me.”
Allen said he’s excited to work with Falvey, whose responsibilities with the AL champion Indians included an emphasis on pitching.
“I’m open to new thoughts, new theories, new ideas, new directions. We have to improve in all facets, we know that,” Allen said. “I had a lot of success before coming to Minnesota, and [Falvey has] had a lot of success, too. So let’s get together and turn this around.”