Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell is starting to fill out his coaching staff, poaching a pitching coach from a division rival:

Pitching coach Derek Johnson is reportedly leaving the Brewers to take the same position with the Reds, a source confirmed to’s Mark Sheldon. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal was the first to report the news. The club has not confirmed the hiring.

Johnson spent the past three seasons as Milwaukee’s pitching coach, and he had a key role in developing pitchers Jhoulys Chacin, Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson and Wade Miley. He now assumes the challenge of turning around the Reds’ staff, which ranked among the worst in baseball this season.

Johnson began his coaching career in the collegiate ranks with jobs at Eastern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Stetson and Vanderbilt, where he spent 11 years and produced six first-round Draft picks and 13 future Major Leaguers. He served as the Cubs’ Minor League pitching coordinator from 2013-15 before joining the Brewers.

Something odd is going on with the Brewers; after finishing in first place and nearly making it to the World Series, the club’s pitching coach and hitting coach (who went to Arizona) have moved on to other organizations. I don’t know much about Johnson, but he is reportedly very highly-regarded within the game, and this seems like a strong first hire for Bell’s staff.


29 Responses

  1. Old-school

    Is Sonny Gray headed to the Reds?

  2. Bill

    Something strange is going on in Milwaukee.

      • Bill

        If I am the hitting or pitching coach on a team that has a chance of getting to the WS for at least the next few seasons, why would I want to go somewhere like the Reds who have no chance of competing until 2020 at the earliest? A job coaching the Reds pitching staff is not a better job unless pay is significantly more or you really just like a challenge. Neither guy took a promotion, just a lateral transfer to a team not expected to compete. Maybe the Brewers don’t pay enough, maybe something else is going on, maybe it is just coincidence that two coaches left to lesser programs for completely unrelated reasons.

  3. Jordan Barhorst

    I’d love for this to be a precursor for the Reds to sign Gio Gonzalez or Wade Miley. Johnson helped them out a ton in Milwaukee. He could also hopefully do the same with Harvey, should the Reds re-sign him.

    • lwblogger2

      I’d not be against Gio but I really have my doubts about rather Wade Miley, over a full season, can pitch to a level anywhere close to what he did in 2018. I wouldn’t see him as a better signing than even Harvey. He’s just never been that good and there were some things even last year that indicate he’s due significant regression.

  4. Matt Hendley

    Could the brewers be planning a rebuild?

    • IndyRedsFan

      Tom, Really good read. Thanks for posting.

      All, long article, but definitely worthwhile if you want to get a feel for Johnson’s approach.

    • Jeff Reed

      Thank you for posting the writeup about Derek Johnson and his coaching philosophy. However the Reds got him away from the Brewers, it seems like a good move.

    • I-71_Exile

      Wow. Thanks for sharing that link, Tom. I’m impressed with the level of detail in that interview and quality answers from Mr. Johnson. This gives me hope that the Reds are actually serious about turning this ship around.

  5. Shchi Cossack

    Per Adam McCalvy @ via twitter…

    David Stearns confirms @Ken_Rosenthal report that highly regarded pitching coach Derek Johnson is leaving the Brewers. Said they had “extensive” negotiations to keep him.

  6. scotly50

    It appears the Reds are stepping in the right direction. Johnson is not a retread. They must have come off the hip to bring him here. Gives me hope for the Reds as becoming a real player in the pitching free agency market.

  7. sultanofswaff

    Great link Tom! Key takeaways for me:

    –he has held a minor league pitching coordinator position. This will be HUGE in developing a unified pitching plan across the entire organization.
    –he believes that team chemistry is a process, a result of everyone preparing to the best of their ability each day. This leads to team unity. I couldn’t agree more…..I never bought into the Scott Rolen ‘effect’, that is was more a media driven narrative.

    Can’t wait to hear the details about why he left the Brewers for at best a lateral move to the Reds…..

    • Jeff Reed

      I also could not agree more regarding team chemistry. Winning teams have it even when some players don’t particularly care for each other personally such as the BRM. The main element in team chemistry is the desire to win.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Without any inside knowledge of the situation, it’s a good guess that he decided to leave because the Reds stunned him with a monetary offer that the Brewers wouldn’t match. Notice Stearns said they had lengthy negotiations to try to retain him. That probably wouldn’t have been necessary if the Brewers were willing to match the offer. Because why would Johnson make a lateral move (some would say backward move) for the same money he could make with a World Series team?

      I live in Wisconsin, and the Milwaukee sports talk show hosts were quite bummed about this turn of events.

      • Old-school

        Speculation- but it could be the Reds are remodeling the entire organizational approach to pitching- and he gets to input. Instead of MLB pitching coach- Maybe he’s director of pitching with expanded roles in the offseason and ST and throughout the organization. Maybe he works with the FO and Bell to build a new infrastructure and he gets input into hiring staff and designing the new pitching plan. Maybe he gets a seat in the draft room? Is there anyone better prepared to work with a 19/20 year Hunter Greene in February/March?

        As a pitching coach, that would be a great long term job and very exciting and worthy of much more money. Bell has emphasized a vertical collaborative approach across all levels. It makes sense the new pitching coach would have a broader and deeper investment into pitching across the organization.

        Or maybe not.

  8. Sowelo

    Great move for the Reds. What Johnson did with the Brewers pitching staff was amazing. Especially Wade Miley. He was basically a gas can before joining the Brew Crew. This hire gives me hope.

  9. Matt WI

    I can testify that Brewers fans were mystified by this as well. It caught everybody by surprise, including the regular beat reporters. Talk radio was just as speculative. Money seems like the most common sense answer, but who knows?

  10. TXRedleg - Mike C

    This is an A+ hire. The Reds just greatly increased their ability to land higher caliber free agents and I think we are going to see some great improvement in these young arms as their confidence increases under Johnson. Do yourself a favor and read his book, The Complete Guide to Pitching and you’ll be as giddy as me on this hire.

  11. Nate

    This is more exciting than David Bell being named as manager. We’ve heard for years about the great young arms, hopefully this will produce some good pitchers.

  12. Matt Hendley

    News flash. Dixon gone to tigers, brice to angels. Williams and Herrera outrighted. We collected a cardinals pitcher in the exchange.