Winter Meetings interview with Mike Matheny

Winter Meetings interview with Mike Matheny

Q. What have you been up to the last two months?

RON GARDENHIRE: Traveling, a lot of traveling. A lot of traveling. Went and saw my mom, took her to California to see her family in the RV. She got sick. And once we got through that, had a nice trip with them, with my family. Been to Florida, bounced kind of back and forth between there and Minnesota, so a lot of traveling.

Q. Can you give us a status update what your team is trying to do to add starting pitching?

RON GARDENHIRE: It's just like every other team out there. Everybody is looking for pitching, probably more so us, scouring the free agent market, other ball clubs, a lot of communicating with a lot of other ball clubs, and working all kinds of angles pretty much like everybody else here.

Q. What is your situation with Pavano?

RON GARDENHIRE: Well, he's a free agent, and I don't think we've had much contact with him. He'll probably end up signing elsewhere. We haven't went back with him, haven't talked to him in a while to see how he's doing. I would guess he's probably looking for a job. He hasn't called me yet, so we'll see what happens when he does. I love the guy.

Q. Talk about the guys playing in the World Baseball Classic.

RON GARDENHIRE: Well, that's very important. Coming in we'll get a chance to do some work before they go, so we'll get a chance to see them. You always get nervous about stuff like that. You like to have them with you so you can control everything, but this World Baseball is fun for the guys, they get to represent their countries. And the big thing here is that these guys are both going to be healthy enough to go do those things, and that's very important for our baseball team.

Q. Terry talked yesterday about finding a third baseman to compete with Trevor and give him a bit of a push. How important is that to do?

RON GARDENHIRE: I just think it's important in all parts of our ballclub. We need competition. We need everybody to be pushed. It's no secret we've scuffled through two years, and I don't think anybody should think their job is safe. We have a lot of work to do to get back to where we want to, and competition for everybody should be the way it is, and I'm sure that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to get better on the field, we're trying to get better in our organization, we're trying to find depth. We've beaten up our organization, our Minor League system, and we're trying to restock there and retool. We had a good draft. I was fortunate enough to go down and see some of our kids down in the instructional league, and some really nice looking young players, really nice looking talent. That's a start. That's where it all starts. But no one is safe. Everybody should have competition. We should have plenty of that in Spring Training.

Q. Why do you think Plouffe dropped off in the second half? Thumb injury or

RON GARDENHIRE: He battled the thumb thing, which really slowed him down. He was swinging really well, got hurt, and that thing kind of stayed with him the whole year, just like it did it Doumit. He battled that for the last month, plus not really talked about his as much. That hurt him, missing some time and then coming back. He put the ball in the seats. He made his mark this last year, now he has to carry forward, he has to get better defensively, and he has to become very reliable over there. But put himself in a really, really good situation, something we've been waiting in this organization for a long time is for him to step up and really make an impact at the Major League level and putting up the numbers as quick as he did was really nice. Now he's got to be able to maintain that over the course of the year and fend off any competition that comes his way. I think he wouldn't have it any other way.

Q. With Revere moving over to center field, how tough will it be for Parmelee?

RON GARDENHIRE: I've got no problem with that at all. We need to find places for Parmelee's at bats and make sure he's in the lineup. And Revere playing center is I don't think we have any problems there. He can run the ball down. We know he's very athletic. And Parmelee, if you put him out there and let him play every day, he's going to get better and better. Some of our Minor League managers have said he's a very good right field manager when he's out there a lot. He's going to get his opportunity, he has to swing the bat and do those things, but I'm very excited to see him. He's made a lot of progress after he was sent down last year, became a pretty good hitter. I look forward to watching him.

Q. How much of an impact do you think he could have with the bat next year?

RON GARDENHIRE: Well, I think the young man can hit. I think he's a strong kid. He's learned to cover the ball a lot better and use the field a lot better. He's learned to get his pitch, and when he gets it, drive it. He's fun to watch. I think it's a process. There's still a lot of at bats that need to be had. It takes a long time to become an accomplished Major League hitter. But the start is what he did last year, put himself in a good position to earn those at bats, and now we'll see where he goes from there.

Q. Can the middle infielders be competition with Carroll, Florimon, Dozier?

RON GARDENHIRE: Going to be competition there, too. Hopefully we'll bring in more competition. As I said, I'm going to try to figure out the best possible combinations and go from there, who gets it done. We know Jamey Carroll can play anywhere no matter where I put him, you plug him in and he does just fine. He's that great role guy, he can start for you every day if you have to have it that way. I think a better situation with him would be spot playing here and there and not beat him up. But he's also a gamer; he likes to be out there. And then we mix and match with the other guys. It's up to them. They're going to come into spring and they're going to have to show us they can handle the positions.

Q. Dozier back and forth between short and second?

RON GARDENHIRE: We're going to see what happens, see how he goes. Hopefully he'll get in there in the second base mix and kind of take that over. That's kind of what you'd like to see and go from there. But no one is set. He'll get a look at both sides of it. I know he can play both sides of it, and hopefully he'll come in and do some damage in Spring Training, get off to a good start and go from there.

Q. With Joe, it seemed like the kind of moving him around between first base and DH kept him healthy. Do you look for a similar plan next year?

RON GARDENHIRE: I hope so. I like that. I like the way we kept his healthy, I thought his legs were underneath him a lot better. We kept his bat in the lineup, he was able to run the bases a little bit more, and that was protecting him, keeping him out from behind the plate taking that beating on an everyday basis. Joe likes to catch. You have to understand that. He likes to run the ballgame, he likes being behind the plate. But I think he also enjoyed his time at first base and the DH and that gave him a little bit of a reprieve from taking that beating every day. The important thing was we said keep him on the field, and we did a pretty nice job of that. Hopefully we can do that again.

Q. Is that a discussion you'll have to have with Joe during Spring Training as far as what he's thinking about?

RON GARDENHIRE: I think I've talked to Joe, and we before he got married. I don't know how he's going to feel after he got married, but I've talked to Joe. And we liked the way it worked last year. He liked the way it worked. I don't see any reason to change those things. I think, again, we go into the season, very important to keep him in the lineup. We're going to do the best we can with that again.

Q. How did the Terry Steinbach decision come about? Did you reach out to him?

RON GARDENHIRE: Well, after Terry had done his thing and made his moves with the coaching staff, we had talked in depth about that, and I told Terry you're going to have to deal with this and do it. These are my coaches, these are my guys, you've got decisions to make, and you do them and then we'll go from there, and then after the fact we started talking and with Stelly gone and Steve Liddle gone that was my catching instructor, so talked about possibilities, and I mentioned Terry Steinbach. I mentioned Jeff Smith, Terry Steinbach, and I told Terry at the time when I brought his name up that I don't know if he's ready to talk a Major League job, get back into coaching yet or not. It all had to do with his family. Terry reached out to him and said he was very excited and absolutely would like to coach. And then we talked and very nice. Veteran guy like him with a lot of Major League experience, he's been doing the catching stuff in spring with us for quite a while here, him and I know each other very well, and very excited to have him on board. A very positive person, definitely knows what he's talking about, has a lot of really good ideas.

Q. How does the you've got two guys who have had Major League pitching coach experience, three guys with Major League hitting coach experience. Do you allow a lot of input or does hitting coach stay in his lane and pitching coach stay in his lane?

RON GARDENHIRE: Well, you want input from everybody. You don't silence any coach. That's why they're good coaches. They have a little say so in everything. But the pitching coach is going to do his job, bullpen coach has his job, but there's going to be input. You never want to deny anybody the opportunity to help somebody. And the same way with the hitting coach is going to go. We've got guys that have been hitting coaches that's worked with Scotty and Vavra. Joe Vavra is going to have plenty to do coaching third base, and Spring Training coordinator. He's got a lot on his table, so he won't have time to get out there and do much hitting right now. But as we go along in the season, Joe Vavra knows our hitters very, very well. I'm sure he and Brunansky will do a little talking here as they have in the past. Good people here.

Q. When there's rumors out there about a potential Mallard trade, is there any concern how the Twins' fans would react?

RON GARDENHIRE: That's a hell of a question. How do you think they would react? I wouldn't want to go back to Minnesota right now if he gets traded. I'd kind of duck. Let's put it that way. Yeah, I think there would be I think you'd probably stir it up pretty good if you start talking about that.

Q. He still has a no trade clause?

RON GARDENHIRE: He has a no trade clause, so we're banking on that.

Q. How comfortable are you with your bullpen? I know you probably have some pieces there you need to shake out, but the core of the guys?

RON GARDENHIRE: You can add, always add. Competition is not bad. But Perkins at the end and Burton, they were solid. Casey did really well getting the ball to them, some other guys. But we're always looking, always looking to add. If you can make it better, you do it. There's people out there, absolutely, competition and we beat the heck out of our bullpen last year. They stood up pretty good, considering we threw a lot of innings at them. You can always get stronger, making a ballgame a six inning ballgame or so is really important, especially if you have a young staff and especially the way our starting pitching has kind of stumbled through it. To get stronger there is something we're looking for. We're looking for all areas, and that's one of them.

Q. Can you say a little about why Perkins has been able to step it up as much as he has?

RON GARDENHIRE: Well, once Perk kind of settled in and realized that this was a good route for him and took the ball and just got up there and let it fly, he's kind of just he grasped the role and enjoyed it. First a player has to accept it because whether he thought he could still start, that's always in the mind, but finally he got into a situation where he knew he could step onto the mound and let it fly, the velocity went up two, three miles an hour. And I think he enjoyed that competition getting outs late in the ballgame, and he's kind of run with it from there. But it started all with just accepting, wanting to be a part of this ballclub, and whatever you threw at him, he took it. That's going from being a young player to understanding that you're in a good situation, you're pitching for your hometown team where you grew up, and once he kind of got through all that and realized how good it was to be a Minnesota Twin, he took off.

Q. Are you going to try and get him the vast majority or almost all of the save chances this year?

RON GARDENHIRE: I hope so. I hope we get him about 50 or 60 of them.

Q. With the way run scoring keeps going down for the last several years, how much of a premium is there now on pitching and defense compared to five years ago?

RON GARDENHIRE: Well, there's no substitute for good pitching. There's going to be games where you're going to score runs, pound the ball around, and you're going to win some games that way. But over the course of a season like we had of pitching, it all goes back to pitching. The guys that have the starters that go out there and get you deep into a ballgame, that's where you win, you pitch and the catch and you don't give extra outs, you don't walk people. All the things that we did wrong last year led us to 90 plus losses again. We didn't catch well, we didn't pitch well, we didn't get deep into the games with our starters. The teams that did that had success. That goes hand in hand.

Q. One of the decisions that were made after the decision was to hold off talks of an extension for you. How comfortable are you being in that situation?

RON GARDENHIRE: Well, I don't have a choice. It's not like I have a choice whether they want to give me an extension. It's not something that I lose sleep over at night. You earn your contracts and you earn your extensions, and as I said this last couple of years, I haven't earned anything. We haven't done very well, and you're graded as a manager on how your ballclub performs. It doesn't matter whether you had injuries, it doesn't matter whether you were short on players. It doesn't matter. You're still graded on wins and losses. Terry told me that, and it didn't offend me at all, didn't bother me at all. You know what, if I don't make it through this year, something happens and I don't make it through this year, I'll be okay. I've had a great opportunity here, I love the Minnesota Twins, I love where I'm at and hopefully I stay there for the rest of my career, however long that may be. We all know what happens in this game, you're held accountable and I'm held accountable. I'm not worried about a contract extension. That's not up to me. That's up to somebody to come to me.

Q. There are some Japanese pitchers in the free agency market. Have you come across any Japanese names?

RON GARDENHIRE: I haven't been up in that room long enough. I hear a lot of Minor League names, and you're talking about guys that I'm not privy to, I'm not out seeing them. I'm not watching all these guys. I don't know them. So it's really hard for me to get involved in saying, yeah, I like this guy, I like this guy. I don't get to see them, the same way I don't get to see the Japanese pitchers. So for me to sit there and say this guy would be really good to help us, it's hard for me. It was just like Nishi. I had never seen him before. I loved him. It didn't work out, but that doesn't mean he's not a good player. It didn't work out for us. But I had never seen him before. That's the same with a lot of players over there now. I haven't seen them. For me to step in and say go get this guy, I can tell you Major Leaguers and I can tell you about thousands of them that I'd love to have on my team, but as far as the guys whose names are coming up, I just don't know them, so my input wouldn't help them, unless it's Major League people.

Q. How about Koji Uehara with the Texas Rangers?

RON GARDENHIRE: Well, great stuff, success. It's all proved on the field. These guys go and they get it done, great stuff. They know how to pitch, and it's just a matter of how they do when they get out on the field. He's done great. You watch all kinds of people come from baseball has grown so much now overseas. A lot of Australian players are getting German players in our organization. We're scouting all over, so baseball has grown so much. And it's fun to see players coming from all over countries and getting involved in Major League Baseball. That's what makes it really entertaining. You get to see a lot of pretty cool people and a lot of different ways that people have grown up in the game, and it all comes to prove out on the baseball field.

Q. Can he be a good fit for your organization?

RON GARDENHIRE: If he can get people out, he can be a good fit for our organization. I can promise you that. If you can get people out in the Big Leagues, we'll take you right now.

Q. Did I see right that Chad Allen is your new Double A pitching coach?

RON GARDENHIRE: I haven't seen that but I've heard that name myself. I've heard a couple of names through our Minor League system. They're still working on all the details and stuff, but I've heard his name mentioned. But whether it's a done deal, I'm not positive.

Q. He's going to teach players how to steal second when the pitchers aren't looking?

RON GARDENHIRE: I watched that. I watched it not work, too. We called that Aggie baseball.

Q. Going back to your situation, given the fact that you're managing next year with no assurances beyond 2013, did you seek assurances that he was going to upgrade the roster for you next year?

RON GARDENHIRE: No. Do you have assurances that you're going to be a reporter next year? I'm working under the same contract as you. There's no assurances and there's no assurances all's I know is Terry Ryan is taking back over and his goal is to get this organization built from the bottom up and get our organization, our system developing players and all those things. We've talked about it an awful lot, about the needs of this organization, the Minor League levels and the Major League levels, and really, I think, all you need is an understanding of what we're trying to do here. I have that with Terry on what we're trying to do. He understands my I want to win. I want to win now. I understand the process of developing. But it's a lot of fun to shake hands at the Major League level. I live with whatever happens here, and we lose good players, we've lost one in Denard Span. I live with it, and hopefully we move forward. But I understand the process. I understand what we have to do.

Q. What are your thoughts about bringing Meyer back? He's got a lot of talent and upside, but he can't help you next year.

RON GARDENHIRE: That's what I'm talking about. It's you're talking about talent and building our system up and getting people this guy has got a chance to be a No. 1 or 2 starter in the Big Leagues, a big power guy, and one of the things that we've talked about is power arms. There's lots of guys out there throwing 88, 90 miles an hour, 91. Guys that throw 95 to 98 miles an hour, that's how you build your system.

Q. Who impressed you when you were down in instructional league?

RON GARDENHIRE: Tons of them. I watched all the infielders, I watched all these kids, I saw them all. We have some talented young kids down there, really talented kids, some nice looking pitchers, big, strong kids that whip the ball around. But very talented position players, which is something that's very important to this organization. You're seeing some really talented kids, Buxton and kids like that. We have some talent.

Q. Kyle Gibson, is that a joint decision with you and Terry to decide how to proceed with him or is that just sort of up to you and Rick Anderson?

RON GARDENHIRE: No, we'll sit down and talk about philosophy on what we do with the young man and where he's at. We all know what he's been through, and like every other organization, it's going to be protecting this young man and see where he's going and how he's going to do, if there's going to be an innings limit. We'll talk about that and we'll decide that right out of the get go. But that's going to be talked about as we go along here this winter and see where we go with him. He made it through the fall league really well. I think he threw 25, 30 innings down there, he's going along, we're going to try to keep him that way, get him into Major League camp next year, go from there and see what happens.

Q. (Inaudible)?

RON GARDENHIRE: Well, it's not for lack of trying. The Twins are involved everywhere. They're trying. We've signed a lot of kids in our Minor Leagues. We just haven't delved too much into the Major League level, the big contracts. But we've signed a lot of kids through our system from our countries, and we scout heavily all over. Believe me, we do. There's efforts being made to get better all over and touch talent everywhere. This organization like everybody else is trying to find out the easiest ways and the right ways to go about it. We'll see what happens here. Good players, it doesn't matter where they come from, their nationalities, just good players help you win. We're looking for them like everybody else.

Q. The WBC, what are you expecting or wishing for the tournament?

RON GARDENHIRE: Well, it's a scary thing because you're not in control of your player, but it's also every team goes through it. Every team has the same thing. The good players are going to play in this to represent their countries. You know, you hope for the best, you hope nothing happens where they get hurt, but every team is doing the same thing. So us, Joe Mauer is going. There's a lot of ball clubs taking a lot of players and putting them out there and letting them represent their countries. You can't really stop the players. It's very important to represent for a Joe Mauer to have USA across his chest and represent his country. That's important. You know what, there are worries, especially with pitching, making sure the pitching is ready for these games, and that's why we're going early to get them ready, and players make sure their legs are underneath them to stay away from injuries. But it's something that baseball is set up and we'll live with it just like every other team.