Johnson sees 'improvement' in Crew's staff

Pitching coach has confidence in Brewers' arms, will 'keep searching for solutions'

Johnson sees 'improvement' in Crew's staff

CINCINNATI -- Derek Johnson's book about pitching begins with a discussion of joy. It's a topic the Brewers' first-year pitching coach has pondered a lot during his first regular-season month on the job.

"It's hard to have joy when things aren't going well," Johnson said. "But what's easy to do is remember why you're here, and what got you here in the first place, and remember why you're playing. Confidence can come and go at any given point in the season, and I think our confidence will get to where we need to get it.

"Our results have not been what we wanted. At the same time, I see improvement in some of these guys that the average guy [does not see], or the box score is not going to show."

The box scores, including the one from Friday's 5-1 loss to the Reds, have been unforgiving.

The Brewers own a Major League-worst 5.67 ERA, including a 6.34 ERA from the starting pitchers that would tie the 1939 Browns for the second-worst in history. Only the 1996 Tigers had a higher starters' ERA, at 6.64.

The Brewers' seven quality starts are the fewest in the Majors. Only the Reds have surrendered more home runs than the Brewers' 46. Of the starting pitchers with baseball's 18 highest ERAs, four are Brewers, including former first-round Draft pick Taylor Jungmann, who's already been demoted to the Minors.

Those starting woes have dragged down the entire staff. Entering Friday, Brewers opponents were batting .305 and owned a .913 OPS, which would be a Major League record.

It is Johnson's responsibility to turn it all around. He is in his first season as a Major League pitching coach after serving as the Cubs' Minor League pitching coordinator, and as the pitching coach at Vanderbilt University before that.

"Obviously I'm trying to learn the league, and I'm trying to learn a lot of new things all at once," Johnson said. "I'm trying to learn our players. Heck, half the time I'm trying to figure out how to get in a stadium.

"So yeah, there's a lot of new things. At the end of the day, my job is still about baseball players. I have to keep going. Keep plugging."

Asked how Johnson has handled the tough first month, manager Craig Counsell said, "Every pitching coach feels every pitch right along with the pitcher, just as the catcher feels it. We all feel it. We're racking our brains, trying to come up with solutions and help the guys. They're going to pitch better. We're going to prevent runs better. …

"It's the same day every day for D.J. It's come in, 'How do I make these guys better? How do we game plan for the game? How do we execute pitches?' That hasn't changed, and it can't change.

"You can't panic when stuff is going on around you that's not the way you want it. You've got to stay the course. You've got to keep searching for solutions, and we'll find one. These guys will get better."

For Johnson, the solution is sticking to the process.

"For me, if our process is right, which I believe it is, it will start ironing itself out," Johnson said. "That's absolutely what I'm holding onto every day, every second that I'm here."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.