When I talked to Terry Ryan on Sunday, I didn’t know he would be fired on Monday. This was his last interview as Twins general manager. We know now Ryan already had started the process of resigning on Friday, and reading the interview, it’s clear there is some real remorse for a lost season and hope for a lot of the young players who are showing signs of improvement.
Two of the players he talked about in depth here, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario, hit home runs in the ninth inning of the Twins’ 4-1 victory over Detroit on Wednesday.
The Twins are 24-25 in their previous 49 games.
Q: How do you account for the improved play of late?
A: We’re starting to pitch better as a rotation. Once you get a guy out there on the starting hill about 6-7 innings deep, usually you’re probably going to have a chance to win. When we went down to Texas recently we really swung the bats. We had a pretty good combination going down there against the Rangers and consequently we went into the break on a high note. [Saturday] we snuck one out at about one o’clock in the morning, which was good. We’ve played better as of late, which certainly is a welcome site.
Q: How about Kennys Vargas coming back and hitting nearly .400?
A: Vargas came back to us from Triple-A and he’s leading the International League in RBI, so we brought him up when we sent [Byung Ho] Park back. He’s taking disciplined at-bats. He’s not swinging, chasing so much anymore. He’s starting to keep the ball in the strike zone. Consequently he’s strong enough, and being a switch hitter, he doesn’t have to worry about those breaking balls going away from him. He’s been a very good addition. Very similar to his first year when he came up and gave us a jolt on the offensive side.
Q: How about [Miguel] Sano, you must like his hitting but what about his fielding?
A: I think we’re going to have to use some patience and give him some time to get re-acclimated to third. It’s been a struggle here the last week, and there will be times like that. He can make the fantastic play, which he has shown recently, and he has messed up a few of the routine plays. That’s just a lack of concentration. But we have to remind, and everyone should remember, he’s just  years old or so and he’ll get better. It’s just a matter of time. There’s been some areas of concern defensively but he’s certainly a presence in the middle of our lineup.
Q: Are you looking for trades?
A: We’re certainly in a position where we need to be active and we should be looking and we should be listening and we should be calling, which we’re doing all of the above. There are some people that will have interest to other clubs. We have some guys on this ballclub that other teams would like to have. I think our process here will be to move forward. If there’s something that we like we’ll do it, if not we’ll hang on. We have a relatively young roster but this has been a very difficult year for a lot of people and we should be active here to see if we can help the cause.
Q: Talk about the Kepler kid? He has a chance to be a superstar.
A: He is a complete player. He can do everything on the baseball diamond that you’re looking for, as far as run and throw, he has power, and he is taking good at-bats. He hangs in well vs. lefthanders. He’s just a young kid and he had very little time in Triple-A. So I think he’s been a very pleasant surprise to everybody. He goes about his business. He has a great, athletic frame. He’s going to get stronger. I think he’s experienced a lot of new things up here, but he has reacted well. He doesn’t panic. He’s pretty much a complete player and I think there’s very positive things to come with him. He has quite a high ceiling, maybe as high of a ceiling as anyone on this ballclub.
Q: What about Daniel Palka at Triple-A, he can really hit but he’s not a big body is he?
A: I think he’s approximately 6-2 and he’s about 215-220, very strong and he has the power everybody is looking for. He’s off to a decent start at Triple-A. He played himself out of Chattanooga at Double-A and now he’s up there with Park and Adam Brett Walker and they have a pretty potent middle of that lineup. But he has been a pretty good addition for us and we’re very happy with what he’s doing. He can play right field, he can play first base, he runs well enough. But I think the power he possesses is probably the tool that intrigues us, and he’s showing that power in Triple-A now.
Q: Were you surprised Brian Dozier finally came around?
A: It was a matter of time. I don’t know why Brian, he goes into those streaks, but he’s in a pretty good one now. He’s playing good defense. It was a bit of a struggle for him but he’s out of that funk now. I think he has, what,  home runs or so? That’s nice to have over at second, especially a guy that can play defense the way he does. He’s hitting in the four hole, which is unusual, but obviously we have thoughts that he’s going to be fine moving forward. Once he gets hot, he can carry us for a while.
Q: Kurt Suzuki has been hitting well for a few months, too.
A: Yeah he is, and congratulations to him and his wife, they just had a baby the other day. He’s carried the offensive side. Obviously he’s a tough guy. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a catcher take more nicks and foul tips and so forth and he stays with it. But he’s been good. I’m very pleased and I think everybody is. He’s about as durable as they come. It’s very comforting to have a veteran back there that can run the pitching staff and he has done a nice job this first half.
Q: You recently promoted Jaylin Davis in the low minors, tell us about him.
A: We started him up there at Elizabethton recently and he tore that up so we moved him up to Cedar Rapids. He’s a kid we took last year out of college and he had a bad shoulder so he couldn’t throw. He kind of slipped through the cracks. He’s very athletic and can play center field. His best tool is his power, he can really put a charge in the ball. He chases the slider a bit much but he can really run. He has been a good draft and sign for us and we’ll see how he responds with that better competition at Cedar Rapids.
Q: Is Rosario starting to show better power?
A: Yeah he does, he’s surprising because he’s small, 180 pounds about, but he can put a jolt in a ball pretty well to any part of the ballpark. He had a very difficult time the first time through here in April and May. He kept swinging at pitches way out of the zone and just got himself out. I think going back helped him and got him under control and now he’s starting to get the ball at least in the vicinity of the strike zone. He still chases a bit, but he’s a surprisingly good runner, has surprising power, and he’s pretty much an accomplished outfielder no matter if you put him in center, left or right. He has plenty of range. He can be a complete guy, as well. Now it’s just a matter of him maturing and consistency and realizing he can play up here if he’d just be a little more disciplined with the bat.
Q: Do you think Byron Buxton is going to hit?
A: I think in time he’ll hit, but obviously it has been a struggle here. He’s swinging through too many pitches and he’s in between, behind in the count quite often. Those are the types of things that ultimately equate into tough at-bats. He’s going through a tough stretch now. I think our biggest desire for Byron would be to make sure he makes some contact. He doesn’t have to hit it over the fence to be a guy in this lineup. If he would make contact, good things are going to happen because he can fly. But his defense is fine and his throwing, as we saw [Friday], is certainly impressive. But if he’s going to be a player of note up here, he’s going to have to swing that bat to some extent and be able to bunt and so forth. It has been a battle for him. I’d like to think we’re going to see those strikeouts cut down, contact should go up, base steals should go up. He, once again, is 22 years old. So we’re going to give him every benefit and chance to grow here. But we’re going to see some tough days and he’s going to have some great days, too. It has been a little bit of a struggle for him.
Q: You’re not surprised they’re playing better of late?
A: I was surprised we played so poorly early. There’s no question that was just not what anybody had anticipated. I’m not surprised that we can play with Texas or Cleveland, and we have shown that. We’re starting to show some of the signs we were anticipating. Everything is going to revolve around this rotation, I suppose. We can’t overexpose the bullpen, and we have to get some timely hits. That’s kind of what did not happen for the better part of the first half.
Q: Turned out there was a reason for your two pitchers, Glen Perkins and Phil Hughes, to miss time?
A: Perkins and Hughes are both down rehabbing right now and they’re both doing fine. Unfortunately when all was said and done, they had more serious injuries than we thought. Hughes will be out because of thoracic outlet syndrome, and taking out a rib. Glen has a labrum problem. They’ll both be ready for spring training and that’s encouraging. I would say that didn’t help matters but also we thought we had enough depth to overcome things of that nature, and [Trevor] Plouffe is out of course still, but we should be OK. We have enough numbers here and we have enough depth and talent that we should be able to get by that. We probably have as few DL members as anybody, except maybe I see Houston doesn’t have anybody on, but our health has been OK. That’s not an excuse.
Q: Talk about the parallels between someone like Torii Hunter, who was put in the Twins Hall of Fame, and Buxton. Hunter was sent down four or five times, right?
A: Yeah, I told that story [Saturday] that Torii, I was scared he was going to go to football because he struggled so badly in A-Ball and Double-A, and that one is parallel to Buxton. Buxton has had more success in the minor leagues than Torii did, so there’s a lot of hope for Buxton. I’ve talked to Torii a long time about Byron Buxton and I think you can almost look in the mirror and see the same player coming through. Their athleticism and their desire and competitiveness and being great teammates, there are a lot of great attributes that Byron has that Torii had. I think there are great days ahead for him, it’s just a matter of time.
Q: Is there a market for a pitcher like Ervin Santana?
A: [For] any starting pitching, there will be a market. Everybody is looking for starting pitching. The free-agent market for 2017 is poor. Ervin Santana is a proven guy. There will always be a market for guys that can give you innings and has a bit of the résumé that there is success to it. There’s no question that starting pitching is one of the things that’s a desperate need of almost every team in contention. I wouldn’t be upfront if I didn’t tell you there has to be a market for a guy like Ervin Santana.
Q: Two young guys [still in the minors] are Jorge Polanco and Jose Berrios, how do they look?
A: I would say it’s just a matter of when of both of them, because they’re both performing. Both of them came out of the Triple-A All-Star Game and did a nice job. Polanco is at second base and Dozier is here and holding down that spot, but he has enough versatility where he could come up. We have a pretty nice thing there. There’s nothing wrong with them getting innings or at-bats there. When we need them, we certainly can go get them.
Q: I’m happy for you. I’m happy these players have proven they can play. A lot of people were on your back but you can’t play for them, you can only sign them and put them out there.
A: Let’s hope we continue on a good streak, because this fan base deserves a club that can go out there and compete. Right now, we’re competing with some of the better clubs.
• Finance & Commerce reported that the Twins’ Joe Mauer has bought a home on Lake Minnetonka for $6.2 million.
• The Gophers recently added a seventh 2017 commitment in the person of Javan Hawes, a three-star receiver from Sandy Creek, Ga. The Gophers have seven Georgia residents on their roster and, if Hawes enrolls, he will be No. 8. Gophers assistant coaches Jay Sawvel and Brian Anderson do most of the recruiting in Georgia.
• Pat Mahomes pitched for the Twins from 1992-1996 and now his son, Patrick Jr., is the starting quarterback at Texas Tech and projected as a first-round draft choice. Some analysts rate him among the top five college quarterbacks in the country. Last season as a sophomore, Mahomes threw for 4,653 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions as the Red Raiders went 7-6.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com