NASHVILLE - Twins manager Ron Gardenhire knows he needs to win to save his job.
After the Twins finished 66-96 last season, he was not given a contract extension beyond 2013. Any currency he's accumulated from winning six division titles and one AL Manager of the Year Award since 2002 appears to have been used up.
The program must move forward next year, or he could be moved out.
"It's not like I have a choice whether they want to give me an extension," Gardenhire said Tuesday during the annual manager's news conference at the winter meetings. "It's not something that I lose sleep over at night. You earn your contracts and you earn your extensions, and as I said this last couple of years, I haven't earned anything.
"We haven't done very well, and you're graded as a manager on how your ballclub performs. It doesn't matter whether you had injuries, it doesn't matter whether you were short on players. It doesn't matter. You're still graded on wins and losses. Terry [Ryan, general manager] told me that, and it didn't offend me at all, didn't bother me at all."
Ryan said Gardenhire's return will be based on more than wins and losses.
"Improvement. Hope. Direction. Leadership," Ryan said. "Things that he already possesses, of course. You know, the one thing that I thought he had a heck of a year doing this year? For instance, one guy. I thought we handled [Jared] Burton tremendously. And he could have taken it upon himself -- we were losing games, and we were struggling. He could have [gone], 'Uh-oh, I've got to win this game. I've got to get him in there.' He didn't do that. Those are types of things good managers do, whether you're winning 90-some games or you're winning 60-some games. He didn't panic."
Burton was returning from injuries, and Gardenhire worked with Rick Anderson to make sure Burton wasn't overused. Gardenhire will need Burton and other players to stay healthy and produce in 2013 if the Twins are to be more than a 66-win team.
During a conversation in late September, Ryan told Gardenhire that he would not offer him a contract extension, and Gardenhire told Ryan that he didn't deserve one. Ryan has since overhauled the coaching staff, bringing in Terry Steinbach, Tom Brunansky and Bobby Cuellar. Gardenhire's future also will be tied to the moves that Ryan is about to make with the starting rotation.
The Twins have expressed interest in several free agent starters, including Brandon McCarthy, Jeff Blanton, Ryan Dempster, Brett Myers and Kevin Correia. They also have talked about bringing back Francisco Liriano.
As of now, lefthander Scott Diamond is the only sure thing in the starting rotation. Rookie righthander Kyle Gibson, ready after missing last season because of Tommy John surgery, is expected to contribute during the season.
If Ryan strikes out in finding more suitable starters for the rotation, Gardenhire will have to sort through returning in-house candidates such as Cole De Vries, Nick Blackburn, Liam Hendriks and Samuel Deduno to fill out his rotation, win games and remain manager of the Twins.
Ryan agreed that the onus is on him to get pitchers Gardenhire can win with.
"I would say that's correct," Ryan said. "I have a lot of confidence in Gardy. He's a good manager. So I've got to get to work and give him some talent so he will be able to function and maneuver and have depth."
Ryan's only pitching move of the offseason was to trade Denard Span for Alex Meyer, a good trade for a power pitching prospect but a bad one for Gardenhire's future.
"I don't want [Gardy] to be in the awkward spot," Ryan said. "I want me to be in the awkward spot. I'm going to give him the players to play with. I'm putting myself in the awkward spot. Trading Span for a kid has put me in the awkward spot, not Gardy. I want to take on that responsibility."
Gardenhire understood the move. He also understands that, ultimately, he will be held responsible for what he does with the roster Ryan hands him.
"You know what?" Gardenhire said. "If I don't make it through this year, something happens and I don't make it through this year, I'll be OK. I've had a great opportunity here."