Twins GM Terry Ryan was prepared to be asked about Matt Capps. He knows what stirs in fans when the name Matt Capps is uttered. Inevitably, someone was going to ask about Matt Capps.
Halfway through his telephone chat with season ticket holders and group organizers on Thursday, it happened.
"Are you going to re-sign Matt Capps?" the fan asked, "and if so, why, with his dismal record last year?" Ryan responded: "I was wondering when this one was coming."
Ryan faced the fans on Thursday during an hour-long session during which he fielded questions on many topics. This one was about Capps, who posted a 4.25 ERA and saved only 15 games because he was given, then lost, the closer's role during last season.
The Twins, however, admired how Capps fought through injuries and are willing to bring him back to prove he can be a top closer.
"He had a very good year in 2010," Ryan said. "Relievers very often have those cycles. One year on, one year off. We lived it with Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier. We had it with LaTroy Hawkins, Eddie Guardado. In our organization, we believe Matt Capps will bounce back."
At one point, moderator Dick Bremer announced that more than 3,000 people were listening to the chat. Ryan kept fielding questions.
One fan wanted a big-picture look at the team. "What lessons were learned in the 1990s that hopefully keeps this [losing] cycle to one or two or three years of a downturn?" he asked.
Ryan hopes the downturn doesn't go past one year.
"We did have some successful drafts," Ryan said. "We did have a pretty good flow. We usually had pretty good depth. We had some things to work with. We lost a Torii Hunter and a Johan Santana, and we still found a way to win. Most of it came from within.
"We have to make sure we are drafting and signing and in the international world. We have a little more depth in that minor league system than meets the eye. It might not be the greatest at Triple-A, but Double-A and A-ball and the rookie clubs we're OK. We need to develop that talent and get it up there as soon as we can."
Another fan wondered how Ryan would approach drafting.
"We pick two," Ryan said of their spot in the first round. "That's a lofty experience. You don't want to mess that one up. We need to come out with an elite player, an All-Star-caliber player. The last time we picked this high we picked [Joe] Mauer in 2001."
On the Twins catcher: "When Mauer is healthy, we anticipate him catching 120 to 130 games. We signed [Ryan] Doumit from Pittsburgh. He's got some life in his bat. This will allow us to possibly DH Mauer when we want to rest him from catching."
On the team's plans for a designated hitter: "That's a fair question right now and that may be a little bit by design. We're starting to make sure we protect these guys right now because our health is in question until we get to Fort Myers. I think once the winter turns into spring, you will see us in a situation where we've got a guy for that position. Once you get this outfield situated, we've got some opportunities to bring in a guy who can DH."
On Kevin Slowey's poor season: "He didn't have the type of year he, or us, wanted. It did not go well. I'm going to end up having to clean the slate here."
On finding a "blue-chip pitcher" to start: "Almost every club wants that [CC] Sabathia they can lead the playoffs off with. Or [Justin] Verlander. We're no different. We had one in Santana ... and we didn't win [then]. It's a little bit dicey. You can go get those guys. Santana is making $23 million a year. That's what those types of pitchers cost. You are better off trying to develop them."
Near the end, one fan asked about signing Jamey Carroll.
"He's like 38 years old," he said. "Why pay all this money for this guy who's at the end of his career?" Ryan: "There are some scouts who would disagree with you."
Note: The Twins are interested in signing lefthanded starter Chris Capuano, 33, who won 18 games in 2005 with Milwaukee but endured two Tommy John elbow surgeries before going 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA with the Mets last season.