Ryan: ‘Pitching is the name of the game’

The first season of his return as the general manager of the Minnesota Twins hasn’t gone exactly as Terry Ryan had hoped. His team is 49-62 and in fourth place after a loss to Cleveland on Wednesday. Minnesota has plenty of questions to answer this offseason as the Twins look ahead to 2013 in hopes of returning to contention. With the trade deadline behind him and the team’s offseason objectives coming into clearer focus, Ryan sat down for a one-on-one interview.

FSN: What has this first year back in the general manager’s chair been like? Have there been any surprises along the way?
Not really. It’s the same job description, and there’s the same objective and a lot of the same people. The biggest difference that I see from my first stint is the transition from the dome to Target Field. This is a tremendous facility and it’s obviously a joy to come out here and watch games, especially those day games. When we played Sunday afternoon in the dome, it was tough to think that we were going to get that many people in there. All of a sudden you come over here and it’s 80 degrees and sunny and you’ve got a crowd of 35, 000 to 40,000. It’s a pretty good venue here to come and watch baseball games. That’s the biggest transition I think that I see.

FSN: Are you surprised with the on-field results this season?
That’s disappointing. Our record is not anywhere near what we’re hoping to accomplish. But we’ve got to be accountable. We’ve not played great baseball, by any stretch. We’re in a tough situation here in August and September. I think the one thing that you’re always trying to do is you want to play meaningful games in September. We’re going to have to play the spoiler’s role, and that’s not exactly what anybody wants to go through September doing.

FSN: Is there anything you’re looking forward to watching in the final two months of the year?
We want to go out and we want to compete each and every game. … It’s just like anything. You’ve got to go out and evaluate what these guys are doing, what they look like and what their future holds. That’s exactly the process we’re in. Each game, they go out and they have a chance to get themselves in a position to help us down the line. That’s what we’re looking to do. We need to improve. There’s no doubt about that.

FSN: What’s the biggest thing this team needs to address in order to get back to contention?
We need to have more consistent starting pitching. That’s first and foremost. Pitching is the name of the game. We’ve been through a lot of different people in that rotation. Some have responded, some haven’t. But if we expect to compete in 2013, we’re going to have to have more consistency out of the rotation to give us a chance. I think any organization would tell you the same thing about what their plans are or how exactly they’re going to look. You can pretty much start with the rotation.

FSN: How do you address that? Free agency, minor leagues, or a combination of both?
I think you’ve got to explore every avenue. It doesn’t matter who you are. If it’s free agency or if it’s trades or if it’s six-year guys or if it’s injury-prone people that ultimately are hopefully getting healthy. All those types of situations, you have to explore every one of those areas to think that you’re going to be able to have an opportunity here to put together a staff. We’ve had some people certainly that will be here, but we need to explore all those avenues.

FSN: How tough has it been to see all the injuries to your pitchers, both at the major league and minor league level?
That doesn’t help anything. Obviously, you’ve got to have depth. We’ve had a little bit more depth than maybe we had last year. Still, when you see guys go down, particularly a guy like (Scott) Baker or (Carl) Pavano, we were expecting them to be at the top of our rotation. Unfortunately, they’ve both been hurt and that doesn’t help. But you still have to respond. It’s given some people opportunities, and one of them that’s taken advantage of it is (Scott) Diamond. When a guy goes down, you’re going to more often than not turn to your system. Ultimately, we’ve done that quite often. Some guys have done a decent job here. Diamond got a chance, (Cole) De Vries has got a chance. Those guys have given us chances to win most of the time out there, so that’s the plus side of it.

FSN: What is realistic for what to expect from Kyle Gibson to start the 2013 season?
I’m hoping to get him through 2012. I’m not too worried about ’13 right now. Every outing that he takes, and he’ll shift over to the Fort Myers ballclub in the near future, but he’s done a nice job for the Gulf Coast League and he’s healthy. I’m anticipating getting him through the year and then certainly he’ll come to spring training and we’ll see what we’ve got.”

FSN: Can he compete for a starting spot next spring?
It’d be premature in even answering that question. I’d like to see how he finishes up this year.

FSN: Who else in your minor league system has made a name for himself this year? Any surprises?
The Triple-A club has made a nice rebound from a difficult start. The Double-A club’s been good all year, been very consistent. Fort Myers, they’ve struggled. Beloit’s been good. Elizabethton’s good, the GCL (team) is good. As a whole, the minor league system, with the influx of the new draft and so forth, we’ve added some talent and depth to the system. You’re never going to be satisfied down there until you see all those guys promoted up through the system. But for the most part, our minor leaguers have done a decent job this year, which is encouraging. We’ve got players down there that are having good years. All you’ve got to do is look at the stat page. I’m not too worried about statistics as I am more in tune to exactly the type of development on and off the field, the quality of at-bats. If it’s the pitchers, how they’re doing when it comes to consistency each time out. For the most part, our minor league system has done a reasonable job this year.

FSN: What went into trading Danny Valencia to the Boston Red Sox?
The biggest thing there is it looks like (Trevor) Plouffe will be able to come back here in the near future. We probably would have had to end up optioning Danny back to Triple-A. I’m not sure that would have been the best thing for him or us. I think maybe now is the right time to see if he can get going with another organization. It’s as much timing as anything. Plouffe is about ready to come back, and Danny was probably going to be the odd man out is as simple as I can put it. Obviously, he’s been a good player here for a couple years. It’s difficult when you part with players you drafted from the get-go and developed. But I don’t think it was going to work out too well with Plouffe coming back and Danny going to Triple-A.

FSN: You recalled Tsuyoshi Nishioka over the weekend. What’s the hope for him now that he’s back in the majors?
The reports were pretty good coming out of Rochester with him. He’s taking decent at-bats. He was making the plays. We got to a point here when we traded Valencia, we needed an infielder. We believed he was the best guy available and he was doing the best job down there for them so we decided to bring him up here. We’ll see what he can do.

FSN: Do you still have confidence in Ron Gardenhire’s ability to manage the team?
Has that ever been in question? I don’t think so. You don’t need to worry about that. Gardy’s doing fine.

FSN: Anything else this team needs to address this offseason?
RYAN: You certainly need to look at the entire roster, not just the starting pitching. We’ve got areas there that we need to upgrade. I don’t think there’s any question that we’ve got some people here that are going to be huge for us going into the next year. It’s a 25-man thing throughout the course of the season, but it’s closer to 35 as you go through it, as we’ve seen again. It’s an organizational upgrade. We’ve got a lot of things that we need to address here. I don’t just think I can pinpoint the starting pitching. We’ve had some concerns around the diamond at some spots. How people mature and how they come in next year and exactly the mindset and so forth, there’s a lot of areas. We’ve got a lot of young players that we brought up this year. Some of them certainly have gotten their feet wet, and we’re going to have to start counting on those types of players. There’s a few of them that are every-day players, but there’s also a few of them in that bullpen and certainly in that rotation.

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