Hartman: St. Peter affirms his Gardenhire support

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2012 - 6:34 AM

Like CEO Jim Pohlad, the Twins president said the team's problems are not with its longtime manager.

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Twins manager Ron Gardenhire

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Dave St. Peter has the final say when it comes to all decisions for the Twins, reporting only to CEO Jim Pohlad, and the Twins president says he can't imagine anybody managing the ballclub next year except for Ron Gardenhire, despite the team's struggles over the past two seasons.

"I have a hard time imagining that if Gardy wants to come back that he won't be back," St. Peter said. "I have every reason to believe he does want to come back.

"Certainly he has been a great fit with this organization for more than two decades and certainly as our manager for the past 10, he has 900-plus wins.

"I know he has been frustrated with the results on the field last year, and the fact that we haven't made greater inroads this year, but at the end of the day I believe Ron Gardenhire is part of the solution, he's not the problem."

So nothing has changed as far as Gardenhire goes, since Pohlad said about a month ago that there won't be a managerial change unless Gardenhire decides not to return.

St. Peter reported that all the Twins coaches are under contract through the end of this year. "As is usual, [General Manager] Terry [Ryan] will sit down with Gardy at the end of the season, and decisions will be made about how we can best proceed. Certainly those guys have been huge parts of our success as well," St. Peter said.

No player giveaways

While Ryan is the man when it comes to trading players, St. Peter was asked how he feels about trading Francisco Liriano and the fact that Liriano has pitched well recently but will be a free agent.

"Francisco has really pitched well, much better here over the past six or seven starts," St. Peter said. "He's been much more consistent in terms of throwing strikes and, frankly, his ability to work out of trouble. We're going to try and do what's best for this baseball team. There are going to be scenarios where he's still here, because he does have the ability to be a dominant starter.

"I know Terry is taking phone calls, I know he's listening, but at this point we're not going to give people away. We know that every fifth day he gives us a good chance to win, and that's important."

St. Peter knows Ryan is not going to trade away anyone unless it makes the team better.

"I can assure you that will not be the case," St. Peter said. "We're trying to make our team better and that would go for any trade. I don't feel like we're in a selling mode. I think we're in the mode of trying to make our baseball team better -- ultimately that would be the case with any player."

St. Peter said an example of this was the signing of Ryan Doumit to a two-year extension, adding: "We think he fits with our club. He certainly gives us greater flexibility to bring Joe Mauer out from behind the plate and still deliver some offense back there. And frankly, he also has been a tremendous influence in our clubhouse with some of our younger players and I know Gardy is very comfortable with that. We felt it was a responsible deal for the team, and Ryan will be a Twin here for 2013 and 2014."

The team has really never signed high-priced free agents, but St. Peter said "that free agency is one of those channels [for improving the team] -- yeah, it's certainly something we're going to take a look at. We obviously understand that those players at the top end are going to come at a premium and ultimately we'll have to take that into account. But I assure you all of those channels are open to us, and there is no internal policy against signing those guys."

About declining attendance, St. Peter said: "We have our work cut out for us, but I believe we need to win more games if we're going to draw in that 3 million range. That's our objective, that's our goal, we think that's what this market can do to support baseball."

St. Peter also reported that Commissioner Bud Selig will be in town July 31 attending a luncheon at Target Field in celebration of the Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) World Series. The Twins will play host to the event for a second consecutive year, and it is the 20th anniversary of MLB's RBI program, a signature of Selig's leadership tenure. Minnesota's RBI program, which was largely started in 1993 by Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield, features more than 6,000 area youngsters playing baseball and softball across the Twin Cities.

Agent's near-miss

Neil Sheehy represented new Wild forward Zach Parise for 7 1/2 years until Parise turned to Wade Arnott for his most recent contract. He does represent Ryan Suter, though. Sheehy nearly could have gotten the 3 percent commission on the big contracts for both players.

Sheehy said there was a time before the two decided to join the Wild that Parise and Suter talked about whether each player would want to join the other's previous team -- Parise to Nashville or Suter to New Jersey. But both refused to go that route.

Jottings

• The Gophers football team currently has 120 players on its roster, but according to NCAA rules, the Gophers can have only 105 taking part in practice until school starts. So coach Jerry Kill has 15 players not taking part in drills until then.

• George Richards of the Miami Herald reports that Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon was fine with center Nick Bjugstad returning to the Gophers for his junior year instead of going pro. He also added that they didn't put any pressure on him to leave for the pros.

• USA Hockey's Under-18 squad recently announced its 22-player roster, and five players are from Minnesota: Teemu Kivihalme of Burnsville, Parker Reno of Edina, Karson Kuhlman of Cloquet and Tom Vannelli and Vinni Lettieri, both of Minnetonka. The team will compete at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in mid-August.

• St. Cloud native Ron Fowler, a longtime prominent San Diego-area businessman who owns Liquid Investments Inc., is reportedly going to front a group trying to buy the Padres. Fowler, already a limited partner in current Padres ownership, earned his bachelor's degree at St. Thomas, where he is a member of the Board of Trustees, and his MBA at Minnesota. Fowler, who has deep ties to the San Diego sports scene, downplayed his role in the purchase in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, but CBS Sports and Fox Sports both wrote earlier this month that Fowler is indeed leading a group that also includes two sons and two nephews of former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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