MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Recently, WCCO-TV’s David McCoy sat down to talk with Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan. Here are excerpts from their conversation.
McCoy: We’re deep in the underbelly of Target Field. How did you arrive at this location? Was it a no brainer after the Dome went away, or did you search out other venues, bigger venues? You had to lower the crowd size you could accommodate here, so how do you feel like this all came together?
Ryan: This is not the ideal for TwinsFest. The Metrodome was ideal. And for what we tried to accomplish, that housed us well for many years. We went up to Blaine one year when the roof collapsed, and tried that. And we were at the Mall of America one year way back, so we’ve been in various spots. But this is one opportunity that allows fans to get into different parts of this ballpark. I’m sure we’ll have to tweak it some, just like we do every year. We had to tweak that Metrodome quite a few times. Way back when we started that thing, that didn’t run the smoothest out of the gate, but once we got that going, it was very good.
McCoy: It was a very aggressive and competitive free agent pitching market this offseason, and you were able to land three guys. One of them Mike Pelfrey coming back, and Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco. You spent some money, addressed the biggest need. How realistically better can this staff be than it was a year ago?
Ryan: We didn’t have enough things go right last year, there’s no question. We just didn’t get deep enough in games. We brought in Nolasco and Hughes because they’re capable of providing the innings we need, and the quality. Hughes is coming off a difficult year last year at New York and we all admit that, but he’s only 27 and he had a lot of good years with the Yankees. Nolasco has been pretty consistent over the course of his career, he’s averaged 200 innings the last three years or so, right there. I would expect him to flourish here, frankly. This is a pitcher’s ballpark, we all know that. Bringing Pelfrey back was important to a lot of us here, knowing Mike. Coming off a Tommy John surgery, he did well last year staying on the mound and staying healthy. Now we expect him to take the next step forward, of course. But this should help with Gibson and Deduno and Diamond and even the younger guys like Trevor May and Alex Meyer and Chris Johnson. We’ve got numbers. Vance Worley is another guy that we’re hoping rebounds, certainly. So we’ve got numbers, we’ve got competition. And then it was important to solidify the starting pitching rotation. The bullpen’s been pretty good. Obviously we’ve got to step it up offensively as well. We think our defense will be OK. But it all goes back to the starting rotation, if we don’t fix that, we’re going to be in trouble.
McCoy: You gave your rotation a facelift. Weren’t nearly as aggressive with the bats. You know the statistics — fewest runs scored by a Twins team in 45 years. Why not be more aggressive with the hitters?
Ryan: There wasn’t much available.
McCoy: Simple as that?
Ryan: Simple as that. It was a very lean year on the offensive side of the game. And just as importantly, you can look around our diamond and we have guys that we think are much better than we performed last year. There’s about five or six players that I think certainly have the ability to step up and provide some of the offensive punch we need, just as much as much as if you’d go out and sign a free agent. You’re looking at the combination here — Alright, what do we have? Where are they in their career? What kind of ability is the free agent class providing? And then cost is part of it. It’s not a huge part, because we’ve got some flexibility. But if it’s not a marginal, sizable upgrade, there’s no reason to go ahead and do it, number one, but we have some faith that we’re going to turn some people around in this organization, that people going out in the free agent class isn’t the answer. It’s providing what’s inside the organization for those guys to get back to normalcy.
McCoy: How likely would another move or two be before Opening Day?
Ryan: We’ll do some things. I’m sure of that. I’m not sure it’s going to be something that it’s going to excite a particular fan or two, but it’s something that we think will probably be a good get.
McCoy: You’ve got Alex Meyer, Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, all are going to be at spring training this year. Would you like to see them on the Opening Day roster, or are they not ready for that yet?
Ryan: We’ll let them dictate that. It’s just like Hicks last year, he had a phenomenal spring, and he made the club, and we brought him North, and it didn’t go so well, but that’s OK. About three out of every four players that you bring up from the minor leagues, usually have to go back. For whatever reason, they just aren’t quite ready for this level. One of the few that have been promoted and stayed is Joe Mauer. Now, he’s a special player. But if you go back in the history of this organization, and I’ll go back quite a few years, but almost every guy has had to go back at least once, and most of them have to go back twice or three times. This is a tough place. It’s not easy playing major league baseball, and I don’t care if you’re Sano, Buxton, or Meyer. It’s tough for those guys, and they’re three of the top 28 players in all minor league baseball, we saw that last night in the projections of minor league baseball. And all three of those guys are going to get exposure, they’re going to get experience, they’re going to get the competition, they’ll get the ability to work with our major league staff, which is important. Buxton’s not been in a major league camp. Sano’s not been in a major league camp. Meyer has, and he’ll benefit from it. So whether or not they break with us, I’m not too concerned about, OK, what are they looking like on March 29th. I’m probably going to be more interested in hearing what they look like in about July.
McCoy: July you want them up here?
Ryan: No. That’ll be up to them. Wherever they’re at, it’s for a reason. Buxton would be coming out of A ball, that would be very difficult. Sano’s got certainly all the life you’re looking for in any bat, he can hit a ball a long way. His defense needs a lot of work. And Meyer didn’t pitch enough last year — he missed 2 1/2 months with a shoulder problem — so as you can tell, they don’t have a lot of professional experience underneath their belt. So we’ll see how they go, and see what they look like, and how they respond, and whether or not they take coaching, and whether they can handle the speed of the game, and whether or not they can handle the media, and the fans. There’s a lot of things. It’s not just one or two things you have to evaluate. And players will tell you more than I’ll tell you whether or not they’re ready.
McCoy: You’ve got Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett in spring training with you guys too, on minor league deals. What would you like to see their role be? Why bring them in?
Ryan: Why not? They’re both on “make-good” contracts. There’s no downside to this thing. Both are familiar with everything we’re involved in. They both have been around us for quite a long time. We need offense, as we’ve talked about. Why not? Good guys. They’ve had a track record. We need some competition, not only at that outfield position that Kubel can provide — he can play left or right or he could DH. He had a bad year last year for Arizona and Cleveland. We’re hoping on the rebound. Bartlett’s been out of the game for a year and a half or so. But when he was playing, he was pretty good.
McCoy: You’ve got a lot of fans I’m sure here at Target Field that are looking for some hope, after the last three years. What can you tell them?
Ryan: We’ve got everything in place. We’ve got a stadium, we’ve got a good ownership, we’ve got a good business side, we’ve got an excellent minor league system, we have people that have been here and been able to do it before, including our manager, our coaching staff, they’ve all got experience at winning, and directing a club. Now it’s up to me to get them the personnel that will allow them to do the job. And we’ve been through this before. There aren’t any shortcuts to putting a club together, we’ve had some tough goes. And a lot of it’s because of the pitching, but a lot of it’s other things as well. We’re about time to start turning this thing and going in the right direction. That’s the hope that I would give the fanbase. We’ve done this before. It’s not like we haven’t been through tough times. I don’t want it to extend much longer, I can tell you that. And we’ve got a pretty good base in line now, and we’re getting some sort of continuity and stability. We brought Gardy back because we think he is the leader to get us going back in the right direction. And we’ve tweaked quite a few things. The medical’s in good shape. A lot of things that we did have issues with, they’re a thing of the past. And I think it’s about time we start heading in the right direction here and, I think things are looking up anyways.