La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Jim Pohlad: Gardenhire, Smith expected back next season

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: September 26, 2011 - 5:07 PM

Twins owner Jim Pohlad on Monday said that manager Ron Gardenhire and general manager Bill Smith will be back next season to try to turn things around after the worst season under their leadership.

Despite the Twins on the verge of being the second team in the history of baseball to lose 100 games (they have lost 98 heading into tonight’s game against Kansas City) while having a nine-figure payroll (they ended the season at $115 million), Pohlad, as of now, is not considering making major changes to the field staff or front office staff for 2012.

The season has been a disaster, from Joe Mauer not being 100 percent at the start the season to the Range Rover rumble last week between Denard Span and Danny Valencia. But Pohlad believes the body of work of his two key employees is enough to give them a chance to make things right.

``In my view the two main things that have happened are that they are have been a ton of injuries - a perfect storm of injuries - and players we have counted on, when they have played, have not played to the levels of 2010,’’ Pohlad said from his downtown Minneapolis office.

Pohlad did admit that meetings have to take place between Gardenhire and Smith as they plot a course for next season. Gardenhire, Pohlad said, might want to make changes to his coaching staff. If Pohlad hears something in the coming weeks that he doesn’t like, he said he’s willing to act.

Pohlad, in a lengthy interview in his office on Monday, discussed several topics, along with the help of team president Dave St. Peter.

  • Pohlad would not criticize catcher Joe Mauer, who is signed to the richest contract in team history.
  • As for injuries, Pohlad did say that they must look at ways to keep their players on the field, which isn’t a ringing endorsement of the medical or training staff. ``We need to address how to keep our players healthy,’’ he said.
  • The club expects their 25,000 season ticket base to remain mostly unchanged next year. There is a waiting list of about 3,000.
  • Pohlad did indicate that they will be active in the free agent market during the offseason. The Twins have roughly $40 million in payroll coming off the books.
  • He added that they would like to re-sign both free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. The club in recent weeks made contract offers to both that, apparently, were turned down.
  • Pohlad said the club could take another look at Japanese pitcher Hishasi Iwakuma, whom they bidded on, and lost, last offseason. Oakland won the bid for Iwakuma but failed to agree on a contract. This offseason, Iwakuma is a free agent. The Twins made a bid of $7.7 million for Iwakuma but were blown away by Oakland's $19.1 million bid.

For more from Jim Pohlad, check out tomorrow’s editions of the Star Tribune for the Q and A with him.
 

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