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Updated: August 26th, 2012 2:05pm
Notebook: Pohlad would welcome Ryan as permanent GM; Gardenhire safe?

Notebook: Pohlad would welcome Ryan as permanent GM; Gardenhire safe?

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Another lopsided loss to the Texas Rangers on Saturday dropped the Minnesota Twins to 1-8 on the current road trip and a season-worst 24 games below .500.

Despite having a healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, and one of the best hitters in the American League this season in Josh Willingham, the Twins are in danger of flirting with the 100-loss mark for the second consecutive season.

This, of course, on the heels of winning six division titles over a nine-year span.

"It's very frustrating," Twins owner Jim Pohlad said in a Saturday interview with Darren Wolfson on 1500 ESPN. "There's only one way to describe it, and that's losing sucks."

With how poorly things have gone this season -- particularly with injuries and the starting pitching staff -- it's fair to wonder whether significant changes are, or should be, on the horizon.

If significant changes do occur, it's likely general manager -- or, interim general manager -- Terry Ryan's job won't be in jeopardy. In fact, quite the opposite.

"When Terry wants to remove the interim (label) from his title, we'll welcome that," Pohlad said, adding that Ryan's "interim" label still exists only because Ryan "hasn't chosen to drop that (label) from his title (yet). ...

"But on the other hand, we don't keep revisiting that every week or every month. We don't keep saying to him, 'Terry, why are you still interim?' Whenever he wants to take that way, he can, as far as we're concerned."

On one hand, Ryan is the overseer of one of the worst teams in baseball this season. On the other hand, many of his offseason moves have worked out well.

Willingham ranks seventh in the major leagues in home runs (31) and has vastly outperformed the man he replaced in the lineup, Michael Cuddyer, for less money. Ryan Doumit is hitting .285/.333/.466 with 14 home runs for only $3 million. Jared Burton has emerged as a solid set-up man. Jamey Carroll is hitting just .247/.332/.291, but his glove rates high this season according to Ultimate Zone Rating.

Behind the scenes, Ryan garners a higher level of respect internally due to his baseball acumen than Bill Smith did during his tenure as GM. But the hectic schedule, added duties and uphill climb required to turn the franchise around are said to have been somewhat taxing on Ryan.

Gardenhire safe

Manager Ron Gardenhire has given no indications that he wants to stop managing. But after two horrible seasons and 12 years manning the same post, does Pohlad believe it's time to shake things up?

Not necessarily.

Pohlad said he "can't foresee" a managerial change at this particular moment, but he also acknowledged he couldn't foresee Smith losing his job at this time last year. Smith was removed from his post as general manager in early November.

Pohlad did say any decision about coaching or personnel changes would be made by Ryan. When asked whether he sensed Ryan wanted to make a managerial change, Pohlad said, "No, I do not."

Pohlad added, "I don't believe there's any feeling (that Gardenhire wants to stop managing)."

Downward cycle?

The Twins enter this offseason with approximately $76 million tied up in payroll, including the combined $8.5 million owed to Nick Blackburn and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who were both removed from the 40-man roster last week.

Even if the payroll stays between $95 million and $100 million, there are no guarantees the Twins will be able to fix the American League's worst starting pitching staff with only $20 million this winter.

Is it possible the franchise is looking at a lengthy period of futility?

"I clearly don't agree with that," Pohlad said. "We have no desire to have our history defined by losing. ...

"There's certainly no reason (for anyone) to believe that if the same team shows up in April that they'll suddenly start playing better. So I would think a person could infer from that there will be some changes, and I'm sure that's what Terry (Ryan) has in mind. ...

"With some tweaking -- or maybe some people would say it's more than tweaking, and they could be right -- we have faith in the future."

One of the biggest problems for Pohlad and the Twins this season is how much money they have tied up in assets that aren't producing. Nishioka, Blackburn, Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Matt Capps, Jason Marquis and Joel Zumaya are making a combined $32 million and have produced almost nothing this season.

"That's true," Pohlad said, "and that unfortunately happens through out baseball. It's part of the game, and it's not an attractive part of the game. And we don't like that. Nobody would like that."

All-Star Game announcement 'imminent?'

The Twins are rumored to be the favorites to host the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field.

It's possible an announcement could come soon.

"Dialogue between the Minnesota Twins and commissioners office has increased noticeably over the past couple weeks," Pohlad said, "and we believe something is really imminent."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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