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Dane Johnson to be named Blue Jays bullpen coach

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According to Sportsnet's Shi Davidi's report, Dane Johnson will be the Blue Jays' next bullpen coach, replacing Bob Stanley who returns to minor league coaching, this time with double-A New Hampshire. Johnson was re-assigned from his role as the Blue Jays' minor league pitching coordinator.

Dane Johnson, now 51, pitched in just ten games (in 1996) for the Blue Jays in his career but for some reason I remember his name from when I was a kid. He was actually Blue Jays second-round draftee back in 1984 but was still stuck in but he never made it beyond high-A Dunedin in his first stint in the organization before getting released in 1989 when he slid back to low-A at age 26. He went over to Taiwan to pitch a couple of years before returning to North America to coach in college. A year later, he found his way back to playing baseball then later landed with the Jays in 1996 as a minor league free agent, signing during spring training before spending much of that season as the closer for the Syracuse Chiefs. He went on to the A's organization on a waiver claim and pitched 38 games in 1997 before the Jays re-claimed him after the season. He spent 1998 in Syracuse before heading to the Marlins organization.

He had a brief stint in the independent leagues in 1999, then returned to the Blue Jays organization as a pitching coach, going through Medicine Hat, Auburn, and New Haven before settling into the role of pitching coordinator in 2004. Having remained in that role for ten years shows how highly-regarded the Blue Jays think he is as an instructor for young pitchers. The club rewarded him with the Bobby Mattick Award Player Development Award twice: in 2002 and in 2010 as one of two Blue Jays minor league coaches who have ever been awarded twice.

The role of the bullpen coach is really a secondary pitching coach, not necessarily one who works exclusively with relievers. With the likes of Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Dan Norris, and Drew Hutchison looking like they will be getting significant big league time in 2015, Johnson may be the right fit at the right time, having worked with all those pitchers in the recent past.

I wonder whether the club made this move in an attempt to keep him in the organization. He had been coaching in the minor leagues with the organization for 14 years and have seen others--like Pete Walker--pass him by to get big league jobs.

Johnson was a huge proponent of getting Sanchez to work on developing his change-up, and Daniel Norris has always spoken highly of Johnson as someone who worked to revamp his mechanics--and was also there as a therapist to help him with his mental game.

Of course, most Blue Jays fans who know Dane Johnson probably remember him from his unsuccessful project at making Ricky Romero throw good again at the beginning of last season. Johnson and Romero worked together in Dunedin--separate from the rest of the Florida State League team--and ended up revamping the former all-star's delivery. Five weeks of hard work culminated in Romero's return to the big leagues against the Mariners, a start for which Johnson himself made the trip up to Seattle. Romero was kind of bad that night, but not as horrible as his return to Rogers Centre five days later.

Then Romero decided to throw everything Johnson and he worked on and went back to his old pitching style. As they say, you can take a horse to the water, and even make it drink, but you can't stop him it spitting it out and never drinking water again after choking on the first sip.

These are just little snippets, but it does seem to indicate that Dane Johnson is a hard-working guy who has had some pretty good successes with young pitchers, and is able to really help them adjust mechanically. His ability to deal with grizzled major leaguers is still questionable, but then again I doubt they will be lining up to ask him for help.

With this hire, the Blue Jays' 2015 coaching staff under manager John Gibbons seem to be complete:

  • DeMarlo Hale, bench coach
  • Brook Jacoby, hitting coach
  • Pete Walker, pitching coach
  • Dane Johnson, bullpen coach
  • Tim Leiper, first-base coach
  • Luis Rivera, windmilling third-base coach