Exclusive Q&A with Twins GM Terry Ryan

MINNEAPOLIS — The 2013 season is over for the Minnesota Twins, who finished 66-96 for the second straight year. After three consecutive season with 96 or more losses, Minnesota admittedly has plenty of work to do to be competitive again. The man in charge of that is general manager Terry Ryan, who now begins what will no doubt be a busy offseason for him. During the Twins’ final series against the Cleveland Indians, Ryan talked with FOXSportsNorth.com in a 1-on-1 interview to answer questions about the disappointing 2013 season while also looking ahead to 2014.

FSN: Looking back to spring, did you have any indication that this season might end up the way it did?

TERRY RYAN: “You always go into spring with a lot of optimism, as I did. We certainly haven’t played to that level. There have been some decent things that have happened with this club. Some of them with some younger players, which is particularly enjoyable to see some of those guys grow. We have struggled. We’ve struggled with consistency in the rotation. We’ve struggled with run production. We don’t have any excuses. Our health, for the most part, has been quite good. So it’s not gone as well as I’d hoped. Unfortunately, we (were) in a bad situation in late September. We (played) some teams here that had a lot to play for in September. That’s the one thing I do enjoy. We’re playing games here that mean something for the opposition, and it gives a pretty good gauge on exactly what we’ve got and who we’ve got.”

FSN: You mentioned there were some things that went well. When you look at the season, what are some of the biggest positives you’ll take away?

RYAN: “There’s no doubt that watching (Mike) Pelfrey get through the year coming off Tommy John and for the most part take the ball every turn, I think (Kevin) Correia’s done a nice job here as far as giving us some veteran presence and the ability to get some meaningful innings. The bullpen, for the most part, has probably been the most successful and consistent part of this team. And a lot of those are younger players — quite a few of them, actually. Our team defense hasn’t been all that bad, especially up the middle. I think it’s apparent that (Pedro) Florimon and (Brian) Dozier can handle those spots defensively. And certainly for the time that (Aaron) Hicks was up here, he could really play some center field. So it’s not been a defensive issue here as much as it has not being able to score much. And we certainly haven’t gotten enough innings out of our starters. The other thing is we got (Kyle) Gibson through the year exactly the way we hoped we would. He gave us more quantity than maybe quality, but I’m not going to ever criticize. He’s coming off that Tommy John just like Pelfrey, and there was a lot of concerns about how we were going to handle him. I think it worked out alright for everybody. I was disappointed, obviously, I thought Aaron Hicks would do a better job with the offensive side of the game. I rushed him, obviously. We take a step back here and see if we can regroup.”

FSN: I’m guessing starting pitching would maybe be the most disappointing aspect when you look at things that didn’t go well?

“No, I wouldn’t say that. Our lack of runs would be the most disappointing because as you knew, going into the season I thought we’d score. I had higher hopes for our offense than I did thinking that we’d only score under 600 runs. … That’s not good.”

FSN: With that said, is starting pitching one of the biggest issues this offseason?

RYAN: “Yeah, that’s an issue. There’s no doubt. Offense is an issue. Where we’re at in the standings, we’ve got a lot of issues, and we’ve got a lot of things we’re going to have to address. But we also have some things going in our favor. We’ve got a pretty good group coming. We’re relatively young here, for the most part. We don’t have too many concerns going through the winter about health. I’m going to look on the bright side. I know you have to look at all areas of this organization, but there are a lot of good things going on here. Not the record, no doubt. The record is not good at all. But we are making some progress. It’s tough to tell. … We’ve got to have a couple people bounce back, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve had some people that went backwards this year.”

FSN: As far as the rotation, do you believe you have pitchers on the team now or in the system that will be able to help you next year?

RYAN: “Yes, I do, but we’re also going to have to be on the lookout for more.”

FSN: What’s it going to take for the Twins to compete in 2014?

RYAN: “Better baseball decisions, better years from some of our players that our capable, some of the younger players taking their year to the next level, some signs in the offseason, maybe some trades possibly. Some younger players that are going to come up through the system are going to be able to contribute, so it’s going to take all that. Not one area. It’s probably going to take all that. We’re a long way away from the Detroit Tigers — and the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals, for that matter.”

FSN: When you see the Indians have the turnaround that they did from last year to this year, does it show that it can be done?

RYAN: “I don’t think there’s any doubt. There’s a couple teams that did the same thing, and they’ve done a nice job. Kansas City, they made a couple moves and (were) in a pretty good spot this year. So it can be done and it has been done and it’ll be done again. Hopefully we’re going to be a club that’s going to start showing some of that progress to the point where you feel pretty good about what you’ve got and where you’re headed. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and it’s not injuries anymore. We could use that a couple years ago, but not anymore.”

FSN: A lot of people make a big deal about the payroll for next year. Is that overblown?

RYAN: “If you want to look at Tampa Bay and you want to look at Cleveland and you want to look at Oakland, and then you look at what our payroll is, and then you look at a team like the Yankees, maybe, add it up. You don’t necessarily have to have a Top 10 payroll to get to the postseason. No one’s ever going to complain about having dollars to work with, and we won’t, and we never use it as an excuse. Our payroll was plenty this year. Certainly about two years ago when it was $115 million, we didn’t do too well. That’s not an issue here at all.”

FSN: Are you still confident that Joe Mauer will catch more than any other position next year?

RYAN: “You saw what he said in the interviews. He wants to catch, and I respect that statement, so I’m going to leave it at that.”

FSN: You’re going to have a tough decision to make with the coaching staff and Ron Gardenhire. What’s going to factor into some of those decisions?

RYAN: “There’s all kinds of factors. Leadership and attention to detail, all that stuff. Organization. Fixing some guys, instruction. There’s no secret to what you’re looking for in a staff and a manager. So we’ll make that decision at the end of the year.”

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