Ron Gardenhire is well on his way to his third-straight 90-loss season but Terry Ryan is not tipping his hand on whether or not the game’s second-longest tenured manager will be back in Minnesota in 2014.
On with MLB Network Radio’s Power Alley show, Ryan suggested that injuries to key players played a substantial role in the Twins’ third consecutive losing season but he also shouldered a lot of the blame for the current state of the team.
“It’s been a difficult year in a lot of areas. We’ve had some injuries and certainly losing a few of these guys for stretches hasn’t helped, particularly a guy like Willingham,” Ryan told Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on Thursday. “And now Mauer’s down. It seems like we’ve had one big piece here missing.”
Willingham, who was a force in the middle of the Twins’ lineup in 2013, has missed 38 games in this season due to injuries and repair the meniscus in his knee. Because of the knee-related issues, when he was on the field, he hit a career-worst .210/.348/.385 in 425 plate appearances, a vast majority of those while hitting either third (232) or clean-up (179). Meanwhile Mauer, who had been the team’s best offensive contributor in 2013, has not seen action since August 19th and has missed now 22 games and counting.
Of course, Ryan says, injuries are not special to just the Twins.
“We have some good things happen here,” said Ryan, addressing some of what he viewed as positives. “Record-wise isn’t one of them but there are some things here – our bullpen has been pretty good up until, you know, when you overexpose those guys they’re gonna start to falter some, but they’ve been pretty good. And Perkins’ has anchored that bullpen staff. Regardless of ERA and those types of things, even Correia and Pelfrey, they’ve done what you might want to expect.”
One aspect of the team’s performance that Ryan called out was the offense’s inability to score runs, a byproduct of having a .228 average with runners in scoring position.
“And some of the offense has been my major concern because we haven’t scored runs,” Ryan noted. “We have had people all over out there and we just haven’t got them in. Now I have to take full responsibility for the roster and Gardy has continued to work and grind and his coaches are tremendous workers. So you take all that into consideration and I’m still at the point now when the season concludes we’ll sit down and figure this out and then we’ll move forward.”
Ferrin then pressed Ryan, asking him pointblank if the team is leaning one way or another but Ryan deferred.
“Yeah, that is going to have to wait, Mike. It’s one of those things where I’ve promised ownership and our people here and Gardy and the staff down there that once the season concludes we’ll get together and make a final call.”
Ryan remains mum on Gardenhire's status but this winter figures to be a busy off-season -- one that could include finding Gardy's replacement.