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Updated: December 7th, 2011 3:20pm
Ron Gardenhire media session: 'There's a lot of names out there'

Ron Gardenhire media session: 'There's a lot of names out there'

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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DALLAS -- Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire flew into Dallas on Wednesday morning to meet with team executives, attend a luncheon and to hold his winter meetings media session.

Making a rare appearance in a black suit and white button-up undershirt, Gardenhire held court for more than 25 minutes, touching on a number of subjects.

- Gardenhire said he left a message Wednesday with Michael Cuddyer, who is still pondering whether to accept the Twins' latest offer. "I just left him a message matter of fact, just congratulate go him on the birth of his Twins. And as I told him it's kind of an omen, having Twins, he should be a twin."

- Gardenhire didn't mention Kevin Slowey by name, but when talking about pitching roles on his ball club next year he said, "They'll pitch where we tell them to pitch. And Perk will be fine, he likes the ball and wants to help. It's about winning, and we're going to try to get rid of all of the, 'I want to do this, I want to do that' stuff."

- Gardenhire hinted what has been reported all week -- that the team is still looking for starting pitching and bullpen help. "We're working on a lot of different things. It's a process. Terry and the guys are up there getting after it pretty good. I've been on phone conversations with Terry pretty much every day. There's a lot of names out there."

- The Twins will add three extra days of spring training in February, which is something Gardenhire embraces wholeheartedly. "Before you start playing games you normally have ten days. We're getting 13 days. The pitchers and campers report, they're going to have the first five days. I'm going to have eight days with all players there, for more fundamentals and just some things I thought get pushed away from time. You start playing games and it's hard to do all the work when you're traveling. Give ourselves eight days instead of five with a full squad, where we can do all of our drills a little more. And that's what we want.

The transcript

We talked to Ozzie a while ago he said you had a meeting with him.

Ozzie yelled at me. He was screaming at me a far. I'm going to miss him because he's entertainment for me. I enjoy the heck out of him. I love the way he goes about his business. I love the way he managers. He keeps it entertaining, and baseball is supposed to be played that way. For me, you know, I get my opportunity seems like 19 times and now nothing, so that kind of stinks for me, because I enjoy the heck out of him.

Have you talked to Robin Ventura at all?

Just shook his hand. When I was coaching third base he was playing third, so we had plenty of conversation. I know Robin pretty well. He's a baseball guy. He's a great player and he'll be fine as a manager, I'm sure.

Did you talk much with Carroll or Doumit yet?

I talked to Carroll all the time, she's sitting right over there. She's my wife. I actually called Carroll before he signed with us, told him a little bit about what we're talking about, here, and what we were looking at. And he was excited and I'm glad we got him. He's going to fit real nice. We wanted to revamp our infield again and give us more options and we've got some pretty athletic infielders now.

What role do you see Doumit playing?

He can play just about everywhere, outfield, DH, catch. Everything really depends on a lot of other situations and what happens. But we like him. He's a gamer. He's another one of these guys that's a hard nosed player. He can catch. He can swing the bat. And he's got a great attitude, a great worker. So we're excited that we got a chance to grab him, too. We're looking for baseball players. We went through a rough time last year, and wanted to make sure that we brought guys in that can get after the game and he's one of them.

He will be your back up catcher?

We could actually go with three catchers. I could use him, depending on what happens here with a few of our free agents and everything, we have to kind of wait around and see what happens there. And then that's going to dictate a little bit more about what I do with these guys and how we move them around.

In the past you've looked at three catchers as sort of a hindrance?

I think it's a bonus, really. I like it. I don't mind it, if you have to have it gives more options with Mauer on the days I don't play him. We'll see how it all breaks down. If one of your catchers is a position player that can go other places like outfield and first base, then it's actually kind of a bonus to be able to have three.

What kind of feeling do you have right now with Cuddy?

You know what, I just left him a message matter of fact, just congratulate go him on the birth of his Twins. And as I told him it's kind of an omen, having Twins, he should be a twin.

Have you talked to Joe Mauer and did you read much of what he said?

I have not talked to him and I did read it.

Is that encouraging to you?

Your article? No, it wasn't that good (laughter). It was an okay article. I haven't talked to Joe. Terry Ryan has talked to Joe a few times. I'm just letting him breathe. He's going through a lot and been through a lot. Terry told me he's feeling great. He's pumped up and he's a little irritated, which is a good thing, you know. Sometimes it's not a bad thing to get knocked around a little bit because you come back fighting a little bit. I'm sure Joe is going to come back fighting. He doesn't have a lot to prove other than getting back on the field and being able to stay out on the baseball field and getting back to being the All Star that he is. That's what we're looking for is Joe to be our catcher and get back to doing the things he likes to do and that's playing baseball. And that starts with his health. He's feeling great.

Have you talked much with Morneau or Span?

Morneau is having a little. ... He's going through rehabs with the surgery that he had, but as far as the concussion stuff, everything is going along good. His workouts, the cardio and all those are great. He's got to rehab the wrist and the foot and all those other things he had to get cleaned up. He feels good. He feels good about the way he's feeling and all those things. We plan on him being our first baseman. We'll go it from there. Somebody tells me something different later on we'll make adjustments. But we plan on him being our first baseman and Mauer catching.

Span has been working out a couple of weeks?

That's early. After the first of the year you'll see where they're at and how they're feeling. He felt good at the end of the season and that was a bonus. He got on the baseball field, played some games for us and made it through and felt great. I don't look for any problems with Span. I think he's going to be a hundred percent come Spring Training.

How important next year is it for your team to be healthy?

Health plays a big part with everybody's baseball team. We took a beating with it. Our big guys, you take Mauer and Morneau out of your lineup. But still on the other side of it we didn't play very well. And even with injuries, we still have to play better as an organization and as a team. There's a lot of things we have to do a lot better. We start out in Spring Training. We're going to get after it pretty hard and we'll see what we can do. But there was a lot of things that the players that we had that were healthy we didn't play very well with them, either. We've got a lot of work to do.

What will be something different in Spring Training?

Well, I'm just talking about... We always put a lot of emphasis on fundamentals and all those things. But when you get your socks knocked off like we did this year I think that's a wake up call for everybody. And I think everybody is going to have to grind it out a little bit harder and kind of like we did at the end of the year. The effort of trying not to lose a hundred games, it was guys were really getting after it. And we need the same effort at the start of the season and we'll go from there it if we can do that. And that's going to be the message.

How comfortable are you with your starting rotation?

Well, we're still working on it. We're working on a lot of different things. It's a process. Terry and the guys are up there getting after it pretty good. I've been on phone conversations with Terry pretty much every day. There's a lot of names out there. And the first thing you have to do is sign your free agents. Michael Cuddyer is the big one. And after Jason, we'll see where that goes.

How much did guys like Swarzak or even Hendriks or Diamond show you last year?

Swarzak made a great impression. I thought he really pitched well out of the bullpen. Handled a lot of big situations, spot starts. I was really impressed with him. I think he made big strides. And Liam Hendriks, it's the first time we had a chance to see him and he was really good. It's competition. You need competition. You need depth. We thought we had it last year, but we kind of killed our depth lags year. We ran through just about everybody we had. We've proven the fact that depth is huge, and we need even more.

Do you envision Trevor Plouffe playing mostly outfield, or is there a chance you can mix him around?

I'm not afraid to play him anywhere. A super utility guy, start in leftfield, whatever it takes. We're going to try to find guys that get it done and when, and that's somehow we're going to go about the business. We're looking at Plouffe as outfielder. But I like the fact that he can step in the infield and swing the bat as he did.

How much work does Plouffe need now?

I think the big thing with him, and he plays a lot of infield but if you solely say you're going to do outfield and he'll be fine. He's athletic enough. He's got a real strong arm. It hasn't been as accurate, we all know that part of it. From the outfield he's got a cannon. We saw how he hit the ball last year. He can be a valuable player for us. However it works out, we'll see how it all falls into place. We like Plouffe.

With Morneau, you're planning on him being a first baseman. Have you thought about I'd rather him at 140 games at first base than 60 at did you have that conversation?

Yeah, we had that conversation at the end of the year. If it's a situation that he gets out there and dives for a ball and has to set out for a month, we don't want that. But our plans are for him to be our first baseman until somebody tells us different. Or Morneau feels he's not able to do that. That's our plan. Our plan is going with him. He's our first baseman. Those are the hardest situations because of the things that happened, not knowing. But eventually you've got to say this is the way you're going to go, and start that way. Our plan is for mother to catch and him as first baseman. Obviously we want Morneau on the field and however we best do that and keep him on the field that's what we're going to try to do. Unless somebody tells us you've got to be careful with the guy we'll have to look at it differently. But he wants to play first base, and we'll go from there.

Did you get the impression from Valencia that he wanted to spend time off season getting better defensively?

He said he was going to work hard on his defense and agility and keeping his legs underneath him. We'll see what happens. He knows, he worked hard at the end of last year. He got better as it went along at the end. He was moving better. And his first step was better. Work in progress. He's still a young player. He likes to hit. We know that and now he's got to like to play that defense. He worked hard at it last year. And that's all you ask as a manager.

Was Corey Koskie a gradual turnaround when he turned into a good defensive third baseman? Or was it overnight?

He put in the work. We did it with him. We went over to the U, and we did drills every day. And he continued during Spring Training. I did drills with him during the course of the season. He worked his way through to where he was comfortable and his hands got better and better, but he was raw, really raw when he first started. And it was just and you can do it. It takes hard work. You have to be willing to do that.

Danny is not raw, is he? Would you say he's raw?

He's a little more polished than Koskie was. But you remember he came from Canada, where they didn't get a chance to play a lot of high school baseball. His games played were a lot less than done I. So Danny has a little advantage over him.

How much confidence do you have that Matt Capps is going to bounce back?

Very confident. He's a gamer and a first class person and I'm very excited. Rick Anderson and I are excited we signed him.

Will Nishioka be involved in a competition during spring training?

Absolutely. We're going to come to Spring Training. Nishi, we invested a lot in human him. We need Nishi to play well. And I know Nishi more than anybody wants to prove he can play here. He had injuries are early, got beat up. I know he's going to be healthy when he comes to Spring Training. Shortstop, second base. We were talking at lunch that I got Alexi Casilla and Nishi and Carroll. That's pretty good infielders right there. And we can mix and match. The big thing is finding the combos that get out there and play together. And whoever doesn't start will be the utility guy probably. We're excited about that. That's three athletic people. And it's competition.

A couple of minutes ago, Ron Washington was happy about having Nathan at the back of his bullpen. What is he getting?

He's got to remember Nathan is a class act for us. We got him in a trade and we gave him the ball. And he just took it and ran with it, for all these years. He came back from an injury that at his age, you know, everybody said he wasn't going to be able to do it. He did pretty good at the end of the year. The ball came out of his hand pretty good. He's a hard worker. They got a real good competitor, and a very good athlete. Out on the mound he's very athletic. We're going to miss him an awful lot. That guy at the end we all know is huge in the ballclub.

Was it just the case of the recovery? The rotation or was it the mechanics?

A little trust and really letting them fly and snapping the ball off. That feeling, once you feel something snap in your elbow, it's hard to get that out of your head. And I'm sure it was a little trust and mechanics, too, rather than force it, letting it just happen and getting the arm speed back. We saw the ball snapping out of his hand, the breaking ball was really snapping. The one thing we saw early, his slider was a little flatter, and wasn't about diving in the dirt. And in the end of the season the slider was diving down in the dirt, and looked hit abdominal and fell out of the air. We just didn't give him enough work at the end, we didn't have enough opportunity. But he was going along pretty good at the end.

Who do you hope to step up behind Glen Perkins?

You've got Cappy and you've got Perk and we'll see who else. Who knows, we might sign more people. You can't get enough bullpen help and starters. It's all about pitching. We're working hard at it. I like those guys. Perk is throwing the living lights out of the ball. And Cappy, he has a good record.

Did you ever have talk to Perkins about why he wasn't going to be the closer?

No, no, I don't have to. When you come to Spring Training you make our pitching staff and you pitch. And we'll decide as we go along who's going to close and figure it out Spring Training and go from there. We'll pitch where we tell them to pitch. And Perk will be fine, he likes the ball and wants to help. It's about winning, and we're going to try to get rid of all of the, 'I want to do this, I want to do that' stuff.

Talk with (new Triple-A manager) Gene Glynn at all?

Not at all. I've known Gene from way back, when I first started managing in A ball, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, he was in that League in Rockford as a coach. I met him then and known him for a long, long time. Great baseball guy. He'll be really good.

How long did it take you to decompress after this season, was it different than others?

Have you ever lost 99 games? Yeah, it was hard. It's never going to be easy. It's not going to go away. You just try to figure out what went wrong and you go from there. So it's a thought process that comes in your head all winter, every day you think about it one way or another, and you just move forward and hope you can improve.

It's got to be hard to pick one or two things?

Well, you can't change the world. But we're a pretty good baseball team a couple of years ago and even coming out of Spring Training, it just kind of went kapooey with injuries. I think if we get our players back on the field you'll have a pretty good baseball team, if we can keep our guys out there. There's things we need to do better. And those are the things we think about.

Is winter ball going to help Francisco Liriano?

We'll see how he does. If he comes out of Spring Training, that's huge. We've seen Frankie go along really good. And we've seen him get out of whack. When he's healthy and got his arm angled up there pretty good, he's a strikeout guy. He's going to be that.
As much as we tell him to pitch to contact and things, it's hard for him to do. He's a strikeout pitcher. They're going to misfire a little bit. But he's going to punch people out. We want him to throw the ball over enough and be healthy. When he's healthy he's good.

You guys are reporting to Spring Training a little earlier than you have in past years. What are you hoping to accomplish? What things do you have in store?

You get more meal money, right away. We have more work time. Before you start playing games you normally have ten days. We're getting 13 days. The pitchers and campers report, they're going to have the first five days. I'm going to have eight days with all players there, for more fundamentals and just some things I thought get pushed away from time. You start playing games and it's hard to do all the work when you're traveling. Give ourselves eight days instead of five with a full squad, where we can do all of our drills a little more. And that's what we want.

More days, but not longer hours?

No, it's not about the quantity of time, it's the quality of time. And we just need a little more. We need a little more time during that work out period that we have to get some things done and be able to do them a little bit more.

Was that a decision based on the 99 losses to report earlier, or is that something you would have done anyway, do you think?

Well, you know what, last year's Spring Training seemed like it was rushed. It seemed like everything got rushed. We had injuries. We had guys not on the field and I didn't get to see enough of them. This year we expect everybody to come into camp at Spring Training. But it was part 99 losses and the way things were going. Yeah, I said we need to do more of these. There's things we're going to add that we don't touch on much. You do run ons one time or two times in Spring Training.

We'll see. We might suck again, I don't know (laughter).

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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