The Minnesota Twins took the first step to improving their pitching staff on Thursday, as the club announced they’ve hired Garvin Alston as the new pitching coach on the big-league staff.

Alston is the 16th pitching coach in Twins history, and fourth since 1985 according to a team release.

Alston finished 2017 as the bullpen coach for the Oakland A’s, and began the season as a pitching rehab coordinator for the San Diego Padres. He’s spent 13 years coaching in some capacity in professional baseball with the following stops under his belt:

  • Kane County (Oakland A-ball) pitching coach (2005-06)
  • Stockton (Oakland High-A ball) pitching coach (2007-08)
  • A’s minor-league rehab pitching coordinator (2009-14)
  • A’s minor-league pitching coordinator (2015)
  • Diamondbacks bullpen coach (2016)

Alston pitched briefly for the Colorado Rockies in 1996, and was their 10th-round selection in the 1992 MLB draft — one pick behind the Twins’ selection (outfielder Ben Jones). Alston pitched in the Rockies organization from 1992-98 — he did miss the entire 1997 season — and then spent the next two seasons in the Dodgers and Royals organizations before finishing in 2003 with the independent Montreal Royales of the now defunct Canadian Baseball League. Alston was one of just a handful of players with MLB experience in the league, along with Francisco Cabrera, Rich Butler, Pascual Matos, Angelo Encarnacion, Shad Williams, Floyd Youmans, Rafael Medina and Steve Sinclair.

In his time coaching, he oversaw the minor-league development of pitchers like future AL Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey (Stockton, 2007) and other top prospects such as Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill.

Alston’s son Garvin Jr. is a pitcher at Arizona State, and lists former Twin Quinton McCracken as a relative. He was also drafted in the 37th round of the 2015 MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox.

The younger Alston lists his father as a big reason why he gravitated to the game. “He groomed me to be a baseball player, but he didn’t push me to it,” Junior said. “One day we sat down, and he asked me how serious I was about the game. I said ‘really serious.'”

Quotes

Falvey, on what the team was looking for: “When we set out on a path after making a change with our pitching coach, we set out to find the best pitching coach for our ballclub,” said Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey during an introductory conference call on Thursday afternoon. “One who had a deep understanding of pitching development, builds exceptional relationships, fits our culture and someone who’d really grow with us moving forward. With Garvin, we believe we checked all of those boxes and then some.”

Alston on what drew him to Minnesota: “Through the process of going through the interview and seeing them across the way from my time with the A’s, everyone in MLB talks about how the Twins have great young arms,” Alston said. “For the future, I’ll definitely sit down with Thad and Derek and have a conversation and see where we’re at, but as for now, I see nothing but upside in regards to these young men that are coming up here trying to find their way to understand how to pitch in the major leagues. I’ll hopefully be able to help them go ahead and prosper and be healthy for a full season.”

Alston on his pre-hiring discussions with Paul Molitor: “I think the relationship will be great. I did not know him personally at the time, but we all know he’s a Hall of Famer and a wonderful person. Chip Hale gave me in the inside scoop on him and said he’s a wonderful person. Our conversation, honestly, he was the first person I talked with during the interview process. There wasn’t a time limit on it, but it went a lot longer than it was supposed to. We just sat down and talked baseball — from the past, from now and where it’s going. The relationship between the pitcher and the manager. The information he’d like to see. Just those small things that I think that are important to be able to understand exactly what the manager wants and needs so he can make vital changes or stay with pitchers at that point in time — depending on the game — to get ahead and move forward.”

Alston on his pitching philosophies: “Well for me, it’s more than just having one or two philosophies. It’s the ability to be able to adjust to the actual pitcher and know exactly what their strengths are. I think that’s vitally important when it comes down to the staff that we’re going to put and present on the field in competition. Understanding what they do well and being able to help them know what they do well. So for me, I start with identity — understanding who you are as a pitcher and what you do well — and from there, you expand upon that and find out the weaknesses they have, and you work on those things from spring training, to bullpens, to side work, to film work, to understanding the information that comes from Trackman or whatever data is out there.”

In addition to the Alston news, Gold Glove finalists were announced by Rawlings Sports on Thursday afternoon, with a couple familiar faces getting the nod — second baseman Brian Dozier and outfielder Byron Buxton.

Conspicuous by his absence is Joe Mauer, as Cleveland’s Carlos Santana, Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer and Boston’s Mitch Moreland were named the finalists at first base.

Advanced statistics don’t care much for Dozier’s season, but he’s a finalist with a pair of well-known names. Among second basemen, Dozier ranked first in out-of-zone plays made (99) and according to Inside Edge, first in plays with a likelihood of 90-100 percent made (98.8 percent), fourth in plays between 60-90 percent (79.3 percent), eighth (out of 16) in plays 40-60 percent (52.4 percent), first in plays 10-40 percent (38.5 percent) and third in plays 1-10 percent (4.8 percent).

The case for Byron Buxton isn’t a difficult one to make. Only two outfielders made more out-of-zone plays than Buxton, and both played more than 100 innings more than he did.

Buxton made 27.8 percent of his 1-10 percent plays (first), 66.7 percent of his 10-40 percent plays (second), 88.9 percent of 40-60 percent plays (third), 100 percent of 60-90 percent plays (first) and oddly enough, just 99.7 percent of 100 percent plays (fifth).

If you don’t believe us, roll the footage:


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Brandon Warne covers the Twins for Cold Omaha, and has had his work featured in numerous places across the United States. Locally, Warne’s work has appeared at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 1500 ESPN and Go96.3 for writing and audio, and he’s also had written work appear on Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs and cited in the Los Angeles Times. Warne lives in the outer Twin Cities suburbs with his wife, Amanda. Listen to his Cold Omaha podcast Midwest Swing. Follow Brandon on Twitter @Brandon_Warne.

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