LAS VEGAS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has heard all the rumors this week about his team possibly trading outfielder Delmon Young. And frankly, he feels partly responsible for them. In his Winter Meetings media session at the Bellagio on Tuesday, Gardenhire said that he "got things stirred up" last week when he told a Fargo, N.D., newspaper that he envisioned his starting outfield for 2009 to be Denard Span, Carlos Gomez and Michael Cuddyer. In his comments, he said that all three of those players needed playing time every day and it seemed to indicate that there was no room for Young.
But Gardenhire backpedaled from those comments on Tuesday.
"I'm not going to say it was out of context, because I said what I said, but it was kind of left off there," Gardenhire said. "It wasn't a shot at anybody, I wouldn't do that. I have a lot of respect for Delmon." Gardenhire said he didn't realize how much controversy his comments would cause until he went hunting in South Dakota the next day and saw his picture on the front of the local paper. "Next thing you know, it's Delmon is out," Gardenhire said. "I'm like, Delmon is not anywhere. ... He shouldn't have to answer those questions and shouldn't have to deal with that. That was me screwing everything up more than anything else." Although neither Gardenhire nor the Twins' front office has spoken directly to Young since the comments surfaced, the club has been in contact with Young's agent, Arn Tellum. Twins general manager Bill Smith stated that everything is fine between the two sides. "Delmon is working hard and trying to get ready for next year," Smith said. "I think he has something to prove. I think if you ask Delmon Young if he's satisfied with the year he had in 2008, I don't think he is. He's got a lot to prove." Young's first season with the Twins was considered to be somewhat of a disappointment. He batted .290 with 10 home runs and 69 RBIs, yet his power numbers weren't quite what the team had hoped. Young didn't hit his first home run until June and then was hampered by an ankle injury over the final two months. But when asked if Young met his expectations, Gardenhire mentioned things other than the outfielder's numbers last season. "Like with every player, we want him to flow into our program and understand what we are all about," Gardenhire said. "He played, but he's a little more stubborn than some of the guys. "You have to understand, Delmon is one of these kids that's come up and he's been the best player from when he was [young] all the way up. And the two people that have been probably the biggest people in his life, his father and his brother, are pretty talented, pretty knowledgeable baseball people. That's who he listened to, and our goal was to try to break into that and get him to understand what we are about, and that's all it's ever been. Delmon was not a problem, not an issue, and I would hate to think that somebody would think it was." While the Twins don't consider Young a problem, the question remains whether he'll get a chance to improve upon last season in Minnesota or if it will be somewhere else. Gardenhire may have eased on his own comments, but indications still seem to point to the team moving one of its outfielders. Although Gardenhire and Smith have both reiterated they are fine with going into Spring Training with five outfielders -- including Jason Kubel, who is primarily the club's DH -- there are questions as to whether the team could find enough playing time for all five players. With holes on the left side of the infield and bullpen help needed, the depth in the outfield could be useful in trades. The Twins also have pitching depth to offer, but sources have indicated the club has been hesitant to part with any of their current five starters, suggesting the team might be more willing to deal an outfielder. "If somebody came after us strong for one of our outfielders and it happened to happen, that's an area where we have a little more depth than other places," Gardenhire said. "So if we can bring back somebody, we have to do it. But there's also nothing wrong with going into Spring Training with a little depth, and more than a little -- we have a lot." Of the club's four primary outfielders, it still appears that Young is the most likely to be moved. Numerous clubs have expressed interest in the talented outfielder this offseason -- including the Phillies, Rockies and Giants. There hasn't appeared to be a fit yet, but other clubs continue to come up in conversation. For now, Young remains with the Twins, and the club seems happy about that. "The biggest thing I keep saying is that he played all year at 22," Smith said. "We've got kids in A ball that we're raving about that are 22, and he's already got two years in the big leagues. We're excited about his potential and what he's going to grow into."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.