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October 29, 2012Long-time Vanderbilt pitching coach Derek Johnson has accepted an instructing position with the Chicago Cubs franchise, according to a report in the Tennessean.
Johnson is expected to serve as the Cubs minor league pitching coordinator, overseeing the performance and development strategy of a farm system that has struggled to produce consistent reliable pitching prospects for many years.
Commodores head baseball coach Tim Corbin confirmed Johnson's move on Monday.
"DJ and I been talking for a couple of weeks, maybe three weeks, over this position," Corbin told the Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge. "I've tried to help him along the way because I care about him a great deal. When you sit alongside someone 11 years, it's almost unreal to think you could be without him. I've tried to guide him through the process the best I could. I see this as a great position, one that fits him."
Arriving at Vanderbilt in 2002 during previous head coach Roy Mewbourne's final season, Johnson soon emerged as one of college baseball's most accomplished and respected assistant coaches.
The 41-year old helped in the development of several elite level aces including eventual first round draft picks Jeremy Sowers, David Price, Casey Weathers, Mike Minor, Sonny Gray and Grayson Garvin. Others such as Ryan Mullins, Jensen Lewis, Caleb Cotham, Brett Jacobson, Jack Armstrong and Corey Williams highlight his profile as high-level round MLB draft picks. In all, 31 Johnson pupils have been selected in the draft dating back to 2003.
The biggest draft for Johnson may have been in 2011 when eight members of the Commodore pitching staff were taken in the draft as Vanderbilt reached its first-ever College World Series, finishing in the semi-final round.
Johnson was named the ABCA/Baseball America National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010, and Collegiate Baseball's national pitching coach of the year in 2004.
Corbin plans to name a new pitching coach within the next couple of weeks, but told the Tennessean that interviews have yet to take place. Corbin indicated there are several potential candidates for the position.
"When you lose a talent like him, it's always a loss," Corbin said. "At the same time - and DJ knows this - I think we've built a culture where we've been able to overcome key losses inside the program."
Vanderbilt completed its annual Black and Gold fall series over the weekend. The Commodores are expected to be a contender once again within the talented SEC with the return of several members from last year's surprise NCAA Regional team.