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Twins Josh Willingham shook hands with Steve Liddle.

Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

Twins shake up their staff, booting coaches and trainer

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III
  • Star Tribune
  • October 5, 2012 - 2:07 PM

The Twins on Thursday didn't wait to hold people accountable for a second consecutive season of at least 96 losses.

The club announced sweeping changes Thursday to the coaching and medical staffs, with manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson the only ones emerging from the onslaught with their same jobs.

Moves were expected after the club lost 195 games the past two seasons. But gone are some of Gardenhire's closest and most trusted confidants in a stunning reorganization. The Twins just haven't made changes like this before.

Rick Stelmaszek, who just completed his 32nd season with the Twins, will not be brought back.

Steve Liddle, who has been with the club since 1988 and on the major league staff since 2002, will not be brought back.

Jerry White, the first base coach since 1998, will not be brought back.

Rick McWane, with the organization for 24 seasons and the head athletic trainer for the past eight, will not be brought back.

Scott Ullger, who has been a third base coach, hitting instructor and bench coach since joining the major league staff for the 1995 season, will now oversee outfield instruction.

Joe Vavra, the hitting coach since 2005, will oversee infield instruction.

"I understand that this is the nature of the game," Liddle said.

And it should be pointed out that everyone who is returning for 2013 will be on a one-year contract -- including Gardenhire, who is at the end of a multi-year deal. It gives the impression that more changes will take place after next season unless there is satisfactory improvement.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan had meetings scheduled for Thursday night and was not available for comment. Gardenhire didn't return a message left Thursday afternoon.

Ryan is scheduled to join owner Jim Pohlad and President Dave St. Peter in sessions Friday with local media. It's expected at that time that Ryan's interim status will be changed, but his moves Thursday show that he's calling the plays.

The moves create openings for Class AAA Rochester manager Gene Glynn, Rochester hitting coach -- and former Twin -- Tom Brunansky and Rochester pitching coach Bobby Cuellar to join the staff. Glynn has experience as a third base coach for the Giants and Cubs. Brunansky played for the Twins from 1982 to 1988. Cuellar was a pitching coach for the Mariners, Expos and Rangers and spent the past nine seasons in the Twins organization.

One dark horse candidate could be Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, who was a bench coach in 2000 and 2001 but has been a minor league instructor in recent years. He hasn't been approached about a position on the staff.

Ryan began the purge on Thursday during a 9 a.m. meeting with Stelmaszek. He was told that when a team finishes in last place in two consecutive years, changes have to be made.

"The years flew by," Stelmaszek said. "We had good ones and we had mediocre ones and we had bad ones. The one thing I can say is that we tried to play the game the right way and have some fun with it. That is what I'm going to miss on the field and in the clubhouse."

Ryan then met with Vavra at 10 a.m. and told him that he was being reassigned. The decision didn't go over well with Justin Morneau, who won the AL MVP award in 2006 while working with Vavra.

"It's unfortunate that the way we've played has caused the changes that have happened," Morneau said. "It's one of those things where you hear grumblings or rumors or whatever and you hope it doesn't happen, but it's too bad.

"It's one of those things you're disappointed to see. He's one of the only hitting coaches in the league with multiple MVPs and batting titles. We won team batting titles under him, and we've had some great offensive teams, and he's meant a lot to me. The time he puts in, the work he puts in is second to none."

Ryan then informed Liddle around 11 a.m. that he was being let go.

"I'm very appreciative of the opportunity that I got," Liddle said. "I'm going to miss everybody, but it's another chapter in my life and it is time to move on."

With McWane not being brought back, assistant trainer Dave Pruemer is in line to become the head trainer.

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