Twins make changes to Gardenhire’s staff

MINNEAPOLIS — After two consecutive 95-plus-loss seasons, changes are being made in the Minnesota Twins organization.

The team announced Thursday that bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, first-base coach Jerry White, third-base coach Steve Liddle and head athletic trainer Rick McWane have been let go. Additionally, hitting coach Joe Vavra and bench coach Scott Ullger were reassigned within the organization. Vavra will oversee infield instruction, while Ullger will oversee outfield instruction.

Stelmaszek has been in the Twins organization since 1978, when he was hired as the manager at Wisconsin Rapids, a former minor league affiliate of Minnesota. As a player, he had as short 60-game major league career — with Texas and California in 1973 and as a Chicago Cub in 1974.

White was named Minnesota’s first-base coach prior to the 1999 season while working under then-Twins manager Tom Kelly. White was a 14th-round pick of the Montreal Expos in 1970 and spent 11 seasons in the majors — 10 with Montreal and brief stints with the Cubs and St. Louis.

Liddle held various positions in the Twins organization during his time here. Before spending the last two seasons as the third-base coach, he was the bench coach since 2002. He was the minor league field coordinator in 1999 after managing the Gulf Coast League Twins for two seasons.

Vavra was the only new addition to manager Ron Gardenhire’s staff since 2002. He became the hitting coach in 2005, replacing former Twin Al Newman. Prior to coming to Minnesota, Vavra worked in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

During the Twins’ last homestand last week, Gardenhire was asked about potential changes to his coaching staff. He has kept nearly all of the same coaches on staff since he was named manager in 2002.

But after consecutive losing seasons, a possible shakeup among coaches was a reality, and Gardenhire knew it.

“I’ve been surrounded by a staff that, they’re my friends, but they’re workers. I think you see that. They’re out there every day getting it done,” Gardenhire said last week. “… We’ll see how everything pans out at the end here, but I have the utmost respect for my staff. I know what they can do, I know what they’ve done. I know what kind of people they are.

“As a manager, you like being surrounded by people you trust, and people that do the work, and also good baseball people, and I think I’ve been blessed with that.”

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