MINNEAPOLIS — Terry Ryan felt the need to re-acclimate himself when he returned to the Minnesota Twins last year as the interim general manager. He wasn’t prepared to make sweeping changes.
Friday, Ryan started a meeting with local reporters by saying he took
the interim label off his title and that he’s ready to begin the shakeup
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after the Twins finished 66-96. Ryan started the changes a day earlier by releasing three longtime coaches and a trainer and reassigning two other coaches in the biggest changes to the staff since Tom Kelly was named the team’s manager in 1987.
“I wanted to make sure that I got into the entire season before I finalized that thing,” Ryan said Friday. “I’m all set and committed and ready to go. So, we’re going to move forward with that.”
Ryan, 58, stepped aside in September 2007, saying he was burned out by the responsibilities of the job. Bill Smith replaced Ryan and the team had three straight winning seasons. But after the Twins slipped to a 63-99 record in 2011, Ryan came back and replaced Smith, reclaiming the general manager’s job he had spent 13 years in previously.
Ryan wanted the interim tag while he convinced himself he was ready to handle helping the Twins turn things around.
“That interim tag, I had to make a decision last year in a short amount of time because of the circumstances,” Ryan said. “I had a sincere desire to come back here and help. So, I wanted an interim tag to make sure that I knew what I was doing. Four years I was out, things have changed in the industry some. So, now I feel good. I feel, not good about where we’re at, but everything else I feel good about.”
Owner Jim Pohlad left the decision up to Ryan when it came to the interim tag, and Pohlad said Ryan isn’t on any timeline to rebuild the team.
“I’ll take Terry any way he wants to be here,” Pohlad said. “As long as he wants to be here.”
Ryan said he wouldn’t have been comfortable last year making the changes to the coaching staff that took place Thursday. But after a year in the job — working with manager Ron Gardenhire, who was retained with one year left on his contract — Ryan knew some changes had to be made following consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1999-2000. Included in the coaching changes was letting go of bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, who had been with the organization since 1978. First base coach Jerry White and bench coach Steve Liddle had been with the team since 1999.
“It’s not easy,” Ryan said. “They’re loyal, hard-working. But in this business sometimes change is a necessary evil. We have been more stable in this organization than any club in the game, I suspect. I just want to express my appreciation for the work those guys put in over the years.”
Ryan and the team have had discussions with Gardenhire about a contract extension but said the team won’t be extending Gardenhire at this time. Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson, both entering the final season of their current deals, are the only coaches who will return in the same capacity on the major league staff next year.
Ryan said he planned to meet with Gardenhire and hire three new coaches “soon.” Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, a one-time Twins player and a roving instructor in the organization, has publicly expressed his desire to join the major league staff on a full-time basis, but Ryan said he had spoken with Molitor and “he is not going to be a fit.”
So, Ryan will turn his attention to changing a roster that has finished at the bottom of the American League Central for two straight seasons. Ryan said the focus will be improving a pitching staff that finished second-last in the AL with a 4.77 ERA. The rotation was in constant flux throughout the season after several injuries hit, most notably to Carl Pavano and Scott Baker.
Ryan said he will look at all avenues of upgrading the pitching staff.
“There’s not too many untouchables on this ballclub, if any,” Ryan said. “We’re going to have to be creative, receptive, proactive. We’ve got to do some things to get some pitching in this organization. That is our main objective going into the winter months, fall months. I think a lot of our ills this year might be erased if we get some credible starting pitching that will give us a chance.”
Pohlad said Ryan’s rebuilding job won’t be defined by a team salary. Ownership is trusting in Ryan’s discretion and isn’t ruling out adding payroll to fix the pitching.
“We’ve never told anybody that they have to spend ‘X’ dollars and we’ve never told them they can’t spend whatever they’re recommending,” Pohlad said. “We have a history of general managers that know their financial discipline and their responsibility, and they also know it’s not just about money.”
Ryan pointed out that several postseason teams have low payrolls, including the Oakland Athletics, who went from last place in the AL West to first after big changes and several trades last season.
But after his team’s changes the past two days, more changes are in store, and Ryan is ready and committed to seeing Minnesota through the transition.
“It’s going to take everything that we’ve got to turn this around quickly,” Ryan said. “We’re going to have to hit better, field better, pitch better, close games better. You don’t get in the spot we are by doing too many things right. We had a tough go.”