Only 18 months after Twins General Manager Terry Ryan fired Ron Gardenhire, he hired him again. And the funny part is, Ryan wishes he hadn’t.
“I’d have rather seen him get another managerial position,” Ryan said Monday after announcing that the manager with the second-most victories in Twins history had accepted a job as his special assistant. “But I’ve always said, if he didn’t get anything, I’d have a lot of interest. … This is a good fit.”
Gardenhire interviewed with the Padres and Nationals last fall and was a finalist with San Diego, but the job went to Andy Green. The Padres discussed a front-office role, but he didn’t like the fit. So when Ryan, who had been in touch over the winter, called again this spring, Gardenhire said he was ready to go to work. And he wasn’t the only one.
“Really, it was Carol more than anyone else,” the former Twins manager joked, referring to his wife. “[She] said, ‘You need to go to work.’ ”
He has already started. Gardenhire, who lives near the Twins’ complex in Fort Myers, Fla., has been working with their Gulf Coast League rookie team, and he will also join Class A Fort Myers this week. Soon he will visit each Twins minor league outpost, acting as a combination of roving instructor, managerial mentor, scout and evaluator. Some days he will be in uniform, hitting fungoes and coaching infielders; others, he will be in the seats, taking notes and offering insights for Ryan and his staff.
“He knows pretty much everything about this game — managing and coaching and hitting,” said Paul Molitor, Gardenhire’s successor as manager. “So he’s going to be a valuable resource for us.”
Added Ryan: “He’s got a lot of experience evaluating, he’s got a lot of experience teaching. He certainly can mentor the managers and coaches to some extent. There’s a lot of value.”
Eventually, Gardenhire will visit Target Field, probably in June, his first trip back to the park that was home for so long.
“I’m looking forward to that,” Gardenhire said. “I’ll get my opportunity to say hi.”
He avoided the park, and Twins spring training, out of respect for Molitor. But he kept watching the Twins, “and as the  season went on, I was churning in my seat just like every other Twins fan.”
There are no hard feelings and never have been, both men said, over Ryan’s decision to change managers in 2014 after the Twins’ fourth consecutive losing season.
“I told everybody, I felt as responsible for that situation as anybody. There was never any problem between he and I,” Ryan said.
Ryan added that perhaps the move will help Gardenhire get a job somewhere else. Until then, the ex-manager is happy “to get back on the Twins payroll,” he joked.
“I love working with the infielders. It’s always been a passion of mine,” Gardenhire said. “Really, I’m just happy to be back.”