Neil Allen, who helped shepherd the minor league pitchers who form the nucleus of one of the American League’s best pitching staffs to Tampa Bay, is the Twins’ choice as their new pitching coach, three sources with knowledge of the hiring process confirmed Saturday.
Allen, a coach in the Rays system since 2007, including the past four seasons as pitching coach at Class AAA Durham, was informed of the decision on Friday night, the sources said. He was the pick over former Cleveland and Seattle pitching coach Carl Willis, the other finalist.
Unlike Willis, Allen has no major league coaching experience, making him an interesting choice for new manager Paul Molitor, who has never managed at any level. But he is well-regarded for his work in the minors, helping Tampa Bay consistently field an above-average pitching staff built largely from within.
One source, who did not want to be identified because the Twins have not announced the hiring, said of Allen, “He’s a smart guy with some really interesting ideas. And his pitchers work hard for him.”
With the Class AAA Bulls, Allen worked with such young pitchers as Chris Archer, Alex Cobb and Jake Odorizzi, each of whom won at least 10 games for the Rays this season, and hard-throwing closer Jake McGee, who saved 19 games.
Allen, 56, is a native of Kansas City, Kan., who now lives in Sarasota, Fla. He pitched 11 seasons in the major leagues from 1979 to 1989 with the Mets, Cardinals, White Sox, Yankees and Indians, posting a career 3.88 ERA with a 58-70 record and 75 saves. A righthanded pitcher, he was drafted by the Mets like his predecessor as Twins pitching coach, Rick Anderson, though he reached the major leagues six years earlier.
Asked to describe his pitching philosophy, Allen said in a 2010 interview with the Sarasota Herald Tribune: “I attack the zone. I’m not a guy, as you well know when I was a closer — I’m not a guy who picks and feels my way. I’m not afraid of contact. I don’t want them to be afraid of contact, I want them to put the ball in play. I don’t like base on balls.”
He has come to the right place, because the Twins issued nearly 700 fewer walks than any other team in baseball during Anderson’s 13-year tenure under manager Ron Gardenhire. The Twins also struck out fewer batters than any team.
Allen joins a staff that already includes hitting coach Tom Brunansky, assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez and third-base coach Gene Glynn. Eddie Guardado is reportedly the team’s choice as bullpen coach, but the Twins have not yet announced that hire. A bench coach and a first-base coach are still to be hired.
Pitcher from afar?
The Twins might soon add a pitcher from an unexpected source. But it’s news to them.
Yang Hyeon-jong, a righthander who went 16-8 with a 4.25 ERA for the Kia Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization last season, can negotiate with the major league team that made the highest bid for that right, the Yonhap News Agency reported Saturday — as long as the Tigers accept that bid.
The Tigers, however, are disappointed with the high bid, the story said, and have not yet agreed to let Yang go. They will meet with Yang before making a decision.
Yoo Jee-ho, who wrote the story, tweeted that the Twins are “apparently” the high bidder. But multiple sources in Minnesota said Saturday that the Twins have not been notified of that and that no negotiations are underway. If the Tigers agree to accept the high bid, the winner will have 30 days to negotiate a contract with Yang; otherwise, he would return to the KBO.
Yang’s fastball has been timed between 89-92 miles per hour, and he was named the top Korean-born pitcher in the KBO last season. He is projected as a possible third starter, according to scouting reports cited by Yonhap.