After three seasons of waving Twins runners around third base, Tony Diaz is following them into the dugout.
The Twins also added two new coaches on Friday, hiring former Angels, Astros and Rays catcher Hank Conger to work with the team's catchers and coach first base, and promoting longtime minor league pitching coach Luis Rodriguez to assistant pitching coach at the major league level.
The moves complete a shuffle of manager Rocco Baldelli's coaching staff, which now includes bench coach Jayce Tingler and hitting coach David Popkins.
With Conger aboard, Tommy Watkins moves from first to third base, allowing Diaz to shift to an assistant bench coach role, a move made with a future career in managing in mind. The 44-year-old Diaz will keep his duties as the Twins' infield coach as well.
"He gets a chance to be a part of the game-planning conversation. This was something Rocco wanted to open the door for him," said Derek Falvey, the Twins president of baseball operations. "It brings him one step closer to the heartbeat of all the decision-making in-game, so he can continue to learn and grow and develop, hopefully on a path toward being a manager someday."
In the meantime, hiring Conger, 33, reunites Baldelli with a player he got to know with the Rays, someone whose buoyant personality and catching expertise made for a good fit.
"You can't hear anything but just incredible praise about who he is," Falvey said. Conger's two seasons coaching for the Lotte Giants in the KBO League in South Korea also convinced the Twins he is ready for a big-league job, Falvey said.
"It's just a matter of, how can we get [scouting information] to the catchers, what can we filter out that they're going to be able to process in real time?" Conger said of his new role. "All my managers were former catchers. So for me, pitch framing and understanding that, and trying to work and trying to evaluate that was the biggest focus for me."
He understands the job of coaching first base, too.
"You've just got to make sure you pump up the hitters," Conger said. "Make sure they keep loose and that they're alert on the basepaths."
He replaces Bill Evers, who worked with Twins catchers for each of Baldelli's three seasons as a manager before retiring at the end of the 2021 season.
Watkins, a former Twins infielder and first base coach since 2019, coached third base during his decade in the team's minor league system.
Ramirez has worked 15 seasons in the Twins organization, including nine as pitching coach at Class A Fort Myers, and last year served as the co-pitching coach at Class AA Wichita. Now he will work with pitching coach Wes Johnson and bullpen coach Pete Maki in his first major league assignment.
"Luis adds another voice and a really deep connection to some of our young Latin pitchers," Falvey said. "We knew the communication side of it is critical. Some guys are a little more comfortable in their native language."