Word began to spread around 10 a.m. Monday that Ron Gardenhire was no longer manager of the Twins. It was crushing news for a couple of coaches and handful of players in the clubhouse packing up after a 70-92 season.
“It was a pretty somber mood in there,” hitting coach Tom Brunansky said. “There weren’t too many smiling faces in there. And with the year going the way it did, not the way everyone wanted, it was tough to hear that news as well.
“A pretty sad day in the locker room.”
Gardenhire’s entire coaching staff — Brunansky, pitching coach Rick Anderson, bench coach Terry Steinbach, third base coach Joe Vavra, third base coach Scott Ullger, bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar and extra coach Paul Molitor — will only be back if the new manager likes them. It leaves open the possibility, although unlikely, of an entire new Twins coaching staff next season if the new manager has seven men he likes better.
“I’ve talked to every coach we have, the seven guys, and explained the situation,” General Manager Terry Ryan said. “They are in limbo because the major league manager is not in place. If they were to get an offer, or if someone were interested, [other teams] would go through us and we’ll give permission for people to talk to them.”
Molitor and Steinbach both could land on Ryan’s managerial candidate list — or someone else’s.
Molitor, who did not return phone calls Monday, just completed his first season as part of Gardenhire’s staff and has been viewed by many fans as a manager-in-waiting. He was the Twins bench coach in 2000-01 and was Seattle’s hitting instructor in 2004. Brian Dozier lauded Molitor for helping him with the mental aspect of the game.
Steinbach just completed his second season as bench coach, and there has been speculation that Tony La Russa, chief of baseball operations with the Diamondbacks, could look to Steinbach to join the staff there.
That was a subject Steinbach didn’t want to touch Monday.
“With respect to Gardy and his tenure with the Twins, I’m just not ready to speculate on that yet, on what’s going on with the Twins or someone else,” said Steinbach, an All-Star catcher for La Russa with the A’s.
The coaches are under contract through December, but Ryan said he would allow them to talk to other major league clubs about jobs.
“I can’t hold them up,” Ryan said. “If they’ve got a chance to get a major league job I ought to let them go because the next guy might not want them. There are people in this organization who are very talented, and we will certainly address that as the next guy is named.”
Brunansky indicated a willingness to remain with the organization. Under his watch, the Twins were sixth in baseball in runs scored. Kennys Vargas and Danny Santana held their own after call-ups from Class AA. Oswaldo Arcia cut down on his swing.
“If there’s no relationship there between the manager and me, then the manager is going to want to go in his own direction,” Brunansky said. “That is just the nature of the game.”
Anderson told Ryan that, if Gardenhire is out, he is, too. The only Twins pitching coach Gardenhire has had, Anderson coached several strong staffs in the 2000s, but he knows it’s about results. The starters’ ERA has been worst in the majors three years in a row, and Anderson knows fans have been calling for him to be replaced.
“I don’t regret anything,” he said. “Obviously the last four years haven’t been good, but those first nine years I was here, that was pretty fun, winning and getting in the playoffs. You can’t take that from anybody. The last four years were frustrating, but it has been a good run.’’