Twins manager Ron Gardenhire prepares for post-purge recovery

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 9, 2012 - 7:28 AM

After the Twins fired or reassigned most of his staff following two lousy seasons, Ron Gardenhire is preparing for the challenge ahead.

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Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and General Manager Terry Ryan are planning to meet next week in Florida to discuss the team’s coaching openings.

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The first week of the offseason has been tumultuous both personally and professionally for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

The team fired three members of his coaching staff and reassigned two others last Thursday. Gardenhire's mother, Jo, also had a health scare.

"My mom was taken to the hospital by ambulance here in [Oklahoma], so I have been a bit preoccupied," Gardenhire said in an e-mail Monday. "She is home now after a few anxious moments."

Gardenhire has been tending to his mother while saying goodbye to some close friends. The Twins fired longtime bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, first base coach Jerry White and third base coach Steve Liddle, three coaches who had been a part of his staff since he replaced Tom Kelly as manager for the 2002 season. The three had a combined 60 seasons of experience on the Twins coaching staff.

The Twins also announced they will reassign hitting coach Joe Vavra and bench coach Scott Ullger. The only member of the six-man coaching staff whose job went unchanged is pitching coach Rick Anderson.

"Been a real tough few days," said Gardenhire, who hadn't spoken to reporters about the firings prior to Monday. "The baseball team will be fine. My job is to move forward and help find answers to make this team better."

Before this purge, the Twins had changed only one member of Gardenhire's coaching staff since 2002. Third base coach Al Newman left after the 2005 season, with Ullger becoming the third base coach and Vavra coming aboard as the hitting coach. Ullger and Liddle swapped roles last year.

The Twins won six division titles in Gardenhire's first nine seasons but went 63-99 and 66-96 the past two years.

"I know our fans expect better," Gardenhire said. "We have to do whatever is necessary to turn this around now. My coaches all knew this was a possibility as this season winded down. That being said, it didn't make it any easier."

Gardenhire, who turns 55 on Oct. 24, has one more year remaining on the two-year contract extension he signed after being named American League Manager of the Year in 2010.

General Manager Terry Ryan plans to meet with Gardenhire in Fort Myers, Fla., later this week to discuss the team's coaching openings, but the timing of that meeting will hinge on the health of Gardenhire's mother.

It's unclear what roles Ullger and Vavra will have moving forward, but Ullger's duties will include outfield instruction and Vavra's will include infield instruction.

The Twins could promote all three members of this year's Class AAA Rochester field staff to the majors, with manager Gene Glynn becoming the new third base coach, Tom Brunansky becoming the hitting coach and Bobby Cuellar becoming the bullpen coach.

Rochester finished 72-72 this season after going a combined 102-186 the previous two years. The Red Wings did this despite promoting numerous players to the majors, including an entire starting pitching rotation.

Gardenhire didn't say who the new hires would be but said, "I will welcome the new coaches and will hold them to the same high standards that this organization expects from us."

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