By La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller
Neil Allen, who helped shepherd the pitchers who form the nucleus of one of the American League's best pitching staffs to Tampa Bay, has been hired as the new pitching coach of the Twins, three sources with knowledge of the hiring confirmed on 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 Twins' 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 before. 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 choice, said of Allen, "He's a smart guy with some really interesting ideas. And his pitchers work hard for him."
Allen did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
With the Triple-A Bulls, Allen worked with young pitchers like 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, who turns 57 in January, is a native of Kansas City who now lives in Sarasota, Fla. He pitched 11 seasons in the major leagues from 1979-1989 with the Mets, Cardinals, White Sox, Yankees and Indians, posting a career 3.88 ERA with a 58-70 record and 75 saves. A right-handed pither, 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 that "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's 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.