Twins hire Tony Diaz away from Rockies, promote Tommy Watkins to MLB staff

The Minnesota Twins are one step closer to filling out their coaching staff.

Tony Diaz will be the new third base coach, a source confirmed to 1500ESPN. Diaz has been with the Rockies organization for years, and was the first base coach on Bud Black’s staff in 2018. MLB.com was first to report the Diaz hire.

The Twins on Friday also announced that Doube-A manager Tommy Watkins has been promoted to serve on the big league coaching staff. He’ll coach first base, the team said.

Diaz joins pitching coach Wes Johnson and bullpen coach Jeremy Hefner as recent hires to new manager Rocco Baldelli’s coaching staff. So far we know 7 coaches on Rocco Baldelli’s staff: bench coach Derek Shelton, hitting coach James Rowson, assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez, pitching coach Wes Johnson, assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, third base coach Diaz and first base coach Watkins.

Diaz was with the Rockies for 17 years in the minor leagues, working as a coach or supervisor role. Then he spent a couple years in the Majors before joining the Twins. He’s spent time in player development, which is an emerging theme with Twins hires this winter. According to the Rockies’ team website, Diaz once wrote a manual “Practical English for Latin Players” as a way of improving communication between parties that don’t always speak the same native language.

Wes Johnson, the new pitching coach, will leave the University of Arkansas to take the post on the Twins staff. Hefner worked with the Twins the past two seasons, primarily focusing on advanced scouting and video work. Hefner, a former MLB pitcher with the Mets, was with the Twins last season on a daily basis to help improve the quality of the pitching staff, among other tasks.

Johnson may not be a household name around the Majors. Then again, neither was their last pitching coach, Alston, at the time they hired him. Alston was let go after one year on the job as new manager Baldelli overhauled his coaching staff.

Johnson’s bio on the Razorbacks website claims that he’s “known nationally for his player development and ability to increase velocity throughout his staff.”

Twins set to add Wes Johnson, Jeremy Hefner to coaching staff