This time, the coaching staff was spared. And the staff is likely to even expand in 2014.
As Twins General Manager Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire engaged in weekend discussions that led to a new two-year deal for the manager, they also discussed the fate of the team’s coaching staff. A year ago, Rick Stelmaszek, Jerry White and Steve Liddle were let go the day after the season ended . This year, the entire coaching staff has been asked to return for 2014.
“Terry and I talked about each one of my coaches and what they bring to the table,” Gardenhire said. “These guys are workaholics. They get after it. It’s not easy when you are losing, and it’s easy to point fingers and blame these guys. Believe me, if they weren’t doing their work, we would all know it. They were doing their work. We were just a little short on talent.”
So pitching coach Rick Anderson, bench coach Terry Steinbach, hitting coach Tom Brunansky, first base coach Scott Ullger, third base coach Joe Vavra and bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar are expected to return next season.
What’s interesting is that the Twins were rather vague about Gardenhire’s assistants.
“In addition, the Twins coaching staff will be invited back for the 2014 season,” said the official news release. That’s because some roles might change for 2014.
Before the 2013 season began, Major League Baseball allowed teams to add an extra coach to the bench or the bullpen. Ryan said the club didn’t think it needed to add one at the time and stuck with six. Things might be different next season.
“We have talked about it and Gardy and I thought it might be a good addition,” Ryan said, “so that’s the reason for our change of heart.”
Many teams have used the extra spot to add an assistant hitting coach. The Twins are in discussions about what role they would like the seventh coach to have.
“A role to be determined,” Ryan said. “We haven’t made a decision or arrived at a conclusion because we just talked about it this weekend. So it’s not like we have gotten too deep in that discussion. There’s a lot of people it will affect if you change roles. Once we get organized here and once we know which direction we want to head and once we know who we might want, then we will start to define those roles.”
They could look at someone such as Class AAA Rochester manager Gene Glynn, who has quickly formed a good working relationship with Gardenhire and is a hit with players. If they go the assistant hitting coach route they could move Ullger, the hitting coach from 1998 to 2005, into the role. Or they could look at someone like minor league hitting coordinator Bill Springman, who is close friends with Brunansky. They might add another Spanish-speaking coach after adding Cuellar last season, because they have several young Latin players on the team — and megaprospect Miguel Sano could arrive during the 2014 season.
And any coaching vacancy in this region can’t be discussed without mentioning Hall of Famer Paul Molitor as a possibility.
“Terry and I will review things on the roles that we have, just like last year,” Gardenhire said. “Depending on who we bring up here for our seventh coach. If we do that, we’ll definitely define new roles and make sure we try to get people in the right spot.”
Some fans might not like the idea of all the coaches returning for 2013. Starting pitching has been a problem for the past two seasons, putting the focus on Anderson. But Twins pitchers were pleased when they learned Anderson was coming back. They believe he hasn’t had the talent in the rotation to be successful. And they point to his work with the bullpen, which was effective with two rookies on the roster for much of the season.
“You’re going to look really good when you have good pitchers and you’re going to look not so good when you have not-so-good pitchers,” All-Star closer Glen Perkins said. “You can make the argument that he’s the best coach we have, not that guy who needs to go.”
That was the theme of the day: The Twins coaching staff was dealt a bad hand and deserves another chance with a stronger roster — and perhaps an extra coach to help next season.
“[Gardy] is the right man for the job, and I’m thankful he’s coming back,” catcher Ryan Doumit said. “It’s a tribute to the organization — it’s a breath of fresh air, actually. They have seen what this staff has done … what Gardy and his coaches can accomplish when they have a good, competitive team and high talent level to work with. To see them stay loyal to this staff, I’m proud to be a part of this organization.”
Even former Twins felt that way.