Q & A with Terry Ryan: Struggling Twins 'going in the wrong direction'
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On Opening Day, Twins owner Jim Pohlad said, "Our expectation is to get better. We're starting from a low bar in that regard with the last two seasons. But we expect to better. ... There's definitely light at the end of the tunnel, but how long is the tunnel? We believe the tunnel is short. ... We believe we will compete (this year). Look at the spring training we had and the people we brought in. Then the maturation of the guys we have."
Turns out that tunnel isn't the Lowry. It's more like the Ted Williams. And with Boston on the mind, this rebuilding project might take as long as the Big Dig.
The Twins are on pace for a third straight 90-loss season. They rank last in the majors in starting pitching ERA, lack power and struggle to score runs. Their starters don't strike enough batters out and their defense is just ok.
I sat down with general manager Terry Ryan on Wednesday afternoon for a mid-season report.
Where are you at at the halfway point?
We are struggling. We had the one bad stretch -- the 10-game losing streak. For the most part, other than those 10 games, we've been ok. There are days we pitch ok and can't hit, and vice-versa. Recently, our bullpen is showing cracks and that's not good. It has been a combination of many things that has gotten us to eight games under .500 (interview done before the last two games of the Yankees series). We keep inching toward .500, then we inch back. That's not good. We have to start putting things together. Yesterday (Monday night) we couldn't get the ball in play, second and third, no outs, both left-handed hitters coming up vs. a righty. They have to do a job to put the ball in play. Next inning, they put up a three spot. Those are instances in the recent past where we're not executing. Our starting pitching has settled down some -- I'm not saying it's great. (Sam) Deduno is throwing well; (Scott) Diamond finally threw it good; (Kyle) Gibson gave us a chance (vs. the Royals). We're not where we want to be. I keep talking about .500, and that's just a number you grab onto. That won't get it done. But it's progress.
Isn't the idea to play meaningful baseball in late August and September?
Well, .500 baseball and meaningful might be August. It won't be September.
I don't know if Detroit will run away.
You might be right.
Although you look at the Detroit schedule, it's really easy the rest of the way.
Usually the teams with talent take off in August and September. Teams not in the mix ultimately make trades and bring in prospects. I don't think it'll last long. Detroit is talented. We're in a position I don't want to be in. We're going in the wrong direction. We have to turn that around. We'll get a look at youth with (Josh) Willingham out. You'll see a lot more of (Chris) Parmelee, (Oswaldo) Arcia, and (Aaron) Hicks. Parmelee will get a chance to play with Willingham out. Arcia has done a nice job. We're certainly evaluating everyday.
Everything else over here is in decent shape, believe it or not. Our minor league system is good -- we have prospects. We have all of our draft picks signed outside of one guy. The international world is starting to take shape. We wrapped up guys today, and we've got several guys we have at least a hold on.
Lewin Diaz ($1.4 million bonus) the big money signing?
No. We still have dollars left. We're still pursuing other guys.
What is it with the Yankees? Manager Ron Gardenhire's record against them is 23-69 (23-71 after the four-game sweep).
There are various reasons. There were four main reasons for a long time: (Derek) Jeter, (Andy) Pettitte, (Jorge) Posada, and (Mariano) Rivera.
Yeah, but you've had good players too.
They certainly have a hold on us. The last two days shouldn't be indicative. This is not the Yankees we know.
That's a lineup you see in mid-March.
So, this is not an indicator. But since 2001, we just haven't been able to overcome them. There's probably been five to eight games that we had and we just let get away.
Well, Monday. Would you have put Jared Burton out there?
I won't say that. That's not my place. He's struggled. We all know that. Depends who else you were thinking to put out there.
I'm wrong plenty, but that's a first guess. It didn't seem like the right move.
It didn't work. We took another loss. Those are situations you have to put a team away. We had them and didn't put them away. We've had a few those. We can all look back and say we should've done things differently. Gardy says the same thing. Burton throwing a ball away on the pick isn't what you're looking for. He could've set himself on the bunt and he three off-balance. He didn't have a good day all the way around.
Back to the Yankees...
Are they in your head? I've seen the quotes after the fact from Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer suggesting they are.
This is a whole different team. Not the Yankees, I'm talking about us.
I hear you. That was my point doing the postgame show the last couple years when people called in saying it was time to fire Gardy and their reasoning was the clubhouse needs a fresh voice. Most of the guys in the clubhouse haven't been around that long.
If you're struggling, everybody likes change. Then if you made a change, people would come out and wonder why they would do that. ... You can't win. You could ask 50 people and you'd probably have an even split.
Think about (Josh) Willingham. People are mad you didn't trade him last offseason. Now he's out. If you had traded him, people would've questioned moving an affordable slugger with two years left on his contract.
You can do the same thing in many areas. If I had traded him, I would've been hammered. Not trading him, I'll get hammered. I've been around this long enough to know I'll get criticized no matter the way you go. There can be times when you're winning and people won't like the decisions. They get attached to players like (Denard) Span and (Ben) Revere. We made a bold move. We need pitching. People were comfortable with Benny and Denard. Moving two they weren't too happy. We've been through that. You're not going to win no matter what you do.
How many people criticize you?
I had a guy two nights ago (actually, Monday) that wasn't happy with me. He yelled up (to my booth). That's ok. He's right. It wasn't pretty. People want to beat the Yankees. They are so tired of losing to the Yankees. When you have a chance to put them away and don't, they're angry.
I get emails, and texts and calls and voicemails.
Text messages? I don't think the guy in section 107 has your cell number.
That thing spreads around a little bit. ... I've gotten my share (of it all). It's certainly isn't as bad as the 90's.
You holding up ok?
I don't like what's going on here. I'm responsible. I'm doing all right. We do have a lot of good things going.
Your farm system is good.
You can talk about some of the ceiling guys. The good thing is the guys who get national notoriety are doing good. I don't have to brag about them. Look at Byron Buxton. If he's hitting .234 in Cedar Rapids with one home run and I'm talking him up, there's no credibility. Now he's taking off in Fort Myers. I don't have to say much for him. In fact, I haven't. His stats and reputation are built on their own.
Those quotes in the Baseball America story are impressive.
I skimmed it. I had just seen him play. It's kind of ironic that the story came out just as I got out of there. He's done a good job and he's made up right. He's a good teammate. He's approachable. There's a lot of humbleness in him. He was raised right by his parents.
What about Hicks -- you said no more scholarships, but based on what he did at Triple-A, why not call up outfielder Antoan Richardson? Looks to me like Hicks was the easy move with Richardson not on the 40-man.
That doesn't matter. We can always find room.
So, why not leave Hicks at Triple-A?
Because he's better. It's simple.
The six-game Triple-A sample-size just too small?
Well, there were people, believe it or not, before he got hurt that complimented us for sticking with him. He was starting to show that he would break out of it. That was nice to hear. He can play the outfield, he can throw, he can run. He can pop a ball like yesterday (Monday). It hasn't come together. He's a better player than anyone else we could've put in that spot. We kept him down below because Clete Thomas was doing a reasonable job. Then Willingham got hurt. Otherwise, he'd still be down there. Richardson is a nice player. He's an emergency type player. He's a Revere type. He's 30-years-old. He's not our future. The future is the guy you'll see tonight (Hicks). He has to find his way.
He may not be your future in center.
Someone has to knock him off.
Buxton will knock him off.
He's still in Fort Myers. A lot can happen between there and here. Just like (Miguel) Sano. He has to do something to knock (Trevor) Plouffe off. Sano is hitting .231.
He looks the part though, according to VP Mike Radcliff who just saw him in five games. He's the youngest player in that league and he looks like he fits in. The defense has been good too.
Better than his bat, which is good. We've made a lot of strides there in the last year.
On Plouffe: he has position flexibility. If Sano is your opening day third baseman, Plouffe can play in the outfield or at first base.
Sano has to get a major league invite first. ... You can do some stuff with either. Both of them are athletic enough to move around. It's not like Sano can't move. If Plouffe develops like we hope, and he hits the homers like he did last year, that's not a bad situation. You'd have right-handed power.
That's good because your lineup is left-handed dominated.
Most of the guys can hit lefties. Mauer certainly can. ... Parmelee -- we have to get him going.
You sure he can get it going?
Yeah, I am. I have faith in the kid. He's struggling. His offense is his ticket. Ironically, his defense outside of the last two games has been impressive. I was thinking three days ago he hit the home run against a lefty, then he scorched a ball to the gap, then he took a walk. But then he took a step back.
That's where your frustration is. You're riding the roller coaster too much.
We have a lot of young players. We're probably the youngest team in the game with WIllingham out and Hicks up.
He couldn't rehab the knee instead of surgery?
He could've. But he chose to have it surgically repaired because the 15 or 20 days he would've been out the meniscus will be repaired after four weeks. It'll be close. He chose to get it fixed. I can't fault him.
We have a lot of rookies. Most of the guys have been ok.
Dozier is finding himself.
He's been ok.
That's the problem. You need more than ok.
Arcia has been more than ok.
He'll win Rookie of the Year.
Let's get to the All-Star break. Usually it's late July and August and September those accolades are decided. He's held up pretty good.
Feel vindication with the Kevin Correia signing?
I never thought it was the wrong decision because of the input I got from those who saw him. Our people were adamant that he'd be ok. I knew signing him would be up for criticism. It was the two years.
You said you had to go to two years in December.
I was told that they turned down more (money) in the same amount of years.
That the agent playing the game?
Maybe. But they are normally honest after the fact. They'll tell you after the fact. We got him for what we thought was right. He has fit in here. He's given us what we thought he could do. Let's hope it continues. He's been fine.
What did you get Sam Deduno for his 30th birthday?
I read that this morning.
He's been your best pitcher.
He's been good.
You took him off of the 40-man.
He couldn't see. He had the eye problem.
Oh, that's right.
Anyone in my position had to ask if he could see. I had to do something. Then his eyesight came back. Then, of course, he got hurt in the WBC.
Is that when you just pound your head against the table.
Well, it's better than what the Yankees are going through with (Mark) Teixeira. He hurt his wrist in the WBC and he's out.
But if they need to make a move or two, they can.
We were ok at the time. We had some depth. That was back when (Vance) Worley was here. We had enough depth to overcome the six weeks. I didn't anticipate Worley being at Triple-A.
What are the reports down there on him?
Fair. He pitched one real good game. He got the win yesterday (Tuesday). His line wasn't impressive, but he pitched better than the line. He did get the win, which I care about. We just have to get him to figure out how to get the ball down. His stuff is ok. He's a competitive guy. I haven't talked to him since he's gone down there.
He mad at you?
He's mad where he's at.
Well, you have to look at yourself in the mirror.
We needed to have him take a breath. We'll see how long it takes to get back here. Hopefully he'll start throwing the ball down and carve up Triple-A. Then we'll bring him back. I'm not doing it for punishment. I think he needed it.
How would you evaluate Gardy? The elephant in the room: he doesn't have a contract for next year. Heck, many managers don't.
Some do. Some don't. It's not unusual in today's profession.
Handling the media, community involvement, disciplining the clubhouse, respecting umpires, respecting the game, all that stuff -- I just now need to get him players he can succeed with.
So, it's more your fault?
Yeah. I take the responsibility. I put this roster together. I've told Gardy to do the best he can. I understand that I don't have a perfect roster here.
I do think the fundamentals have been better compared to the last two years.
We are better. But we're not good enough. We need to get to the point where we are much more competitive. Certainly we need to find ways to win games instead of losing like the last few days. That's not good. That's when fans get frustrated. We have a good closer here.
You can use him in the eighth inning you know.
You want to go talk to the manager?
No. But I'm just saying.
I won't argue. You have to be careful though. If that one blew it, all heck would blow up. But that's the profession we're in. But I know what you're saying. You could've brought him to face Cano (on Monday). If (Perkins) had gone one-two-three Gardy would've been a genius. If he had blown it, everyone would've said he didn't know what role he was in.
Will what you do at the trade deadline be dictated by how you do on this 10-game trip?
This will be a good indicator whether we're a team that will be competitive.