Twins general manager Terry Ryan participated in an exclusive chat Tuesday with Twins Territory Team members. The 2006 Sporting News Executive of the Year shared his views on the Minnesota's clubhouse leaders, Minor Leaguers, free agents and more.
Terry Ryan: Hello, Twins Territory Team members. Thank you very much for joining our first Web chat. Please feel free to submit your questions and we look forward to answering your questions. Let's get started.
mlbrian2: Looking at the Twins teams over the past couple of years, how does the 2007 team compare? What are this team's strengths?
Ryan: This team is very similar -- started out slow, but it looks like we have momentum going now. Most of our previous teams have revolved around pitching, defense and bullpen, and this team is similar. We have had a few more injuries to our bullpen this year, but overall, very similar to previous years. Our strengths this year -- we have good team speed, the reigning MVP, Cy Young award winner, one of the more reliable closers, a Gold Glove center fielder and we are the reigning AL Central Division champs, and not to mention, the batting champ who will be coming back shortly.
mlbrian2: Who is the leader the clubhouse?
Ryan: Leaders evolve over productivity. We have a leader on our pitching staff with Mr. Johan Santana. The bullpen leader is Joe Nathan. We have a leader in center field. In his own subtle way, Mike Redmond is a leader. Juan Rincon is a leader by example. Justin Morneau will develop into a leader. A guy like Luis Castillo -- people watch him. He is the type of guy with the way he gets hits, gets rallies going, people watch him quite a bit to see how he reacts. He is a leader in the clubhouse. We have a number of people who can take on that role. Michael Cuddyer is another one.
MauerFan7: With the injury bug hitting the Twins so hard this season, what factors go into deciding on depleting Rochester vs. contacting a MLB team about available players?
Ryan: It all goes back to if we have someone in our system that is capable vs. going outside. People forget you have to give something up to get something in return. It also is dependent on the length of the injury. For example, Mauer and Jesse Crain -- Mauer is on the DL and Redmond comes in and you bring Chris Heintz up for awhile. We can get around certain situations and are more apt to promote from within. With Crain, he is out, so we adjusted Matt Guerrier in the pecking order, giving him more innings and we will move someone up to put in his spot.
letzgostem: Will Joe Mauer be back in action this week?
Ryan: Probably, that is safe to say. He is very close, and we want to be sure he is 100% before we activate him. We don't want to take any chances. We're hoping for Friday in Oakland. Hopefully, that will be the day.
Adam61580: Has a decision been made on who will start in Ortiz's spot or is that a secret until then?
Ryan: It hasn't been decided on entirely. We haven't informed the player coming up which is the first thing. We aren't worrying about it quite yet since the start isn't until Friday. There are a few people down there, so we have some choices.
terrytorii: Have you considered ever going to a four-man starting rotation?
Ryan: Yes, that has been tried before, but over a 162-game schedule, it just doesn't seem to work. There have been teams who have done it in their Minor Leagues, but there doesn't seem to be longevity once you get into August and September. We have enough pitching depth where we can go with five. Although you will start hearing about other clubs doing that. Mark my words, by about Aug. 15, there will be teams starting to do that. When we have days off, we still don't like to do that -- we don't like to skip guys in the rotation.
Viney911_2: What is the status with Torii Hunter's contract?
Ryan: He is a free agent at the end of 2007. Our objective right now is to qualify for postseason. That is what we are aiming to do and Torii is a part of this club to help us get there.
Adam61580: It looks like Nick Punto is starting to hit now. Was that becoming a concern? And was there talks of bringing up Matt Moses?
Ryan: Moses isn't quite ready yet and Nick is definitely showing signs of playing the game the way he did last year. Now he's doing things that he did last year -- he is making things happen -- he is a catalyst. He is consistent with his defense and now his bat is starting to catch up.
MauerFan7: Who do you see as the Twins Minor Leaguer with the most potential?
Ryan: We have some prospects we are fond of ... Matt Garza is one, Kevin Slowey is another ... both at Triple-A. We start getting excited when they start dominating at the Triple-A level.
mlbrian2: Looking towards the offseason -- any inside scoops on how the Twins plan to handle their free agents?
Ryan: I'd like to get through the 2007 season first before I start thinking about that. I want to get through the month and the week first. Right now, we worry about the White Sox then Oakland. I do worry about two, three, four years out often, and there are critical decisions to be made, but there is a time and a place for decision making. And right now, we are more focused on the current week, month and season.
letzgostem: Do you think a team can win with home-grown talent exclusively or are big-name free agent signings necessary to win?
Ryan: No and no. If you look at rosters in the Major Leagues, we have as many home grown as any. We have Santana, Punto, Jason Bartlett, Nathan ... but it's also important to look at the free agent acquisitions, but there needs to be a mix. Every Major League team has 25 players and every team has different levels of production from different areas. Most teams would like to do it with a majority of home-grown talent. Everyone talks about it, everyone wants to do it, but rarely can you get it done just from that approach.
mlbrian2: If you had one wish for the Twins new ballpark, what would you include?
Ryan: Good weather! We've done our research and it's in a convenient location, we know the design, and it's now just a matter of good weather -- particularly in April. May through September is generally good. With that said, our weather has been better than Chicago, Boston, Cleveland and Detroit this year.
JustTom: What's the deal with Jason Kubel? He's just not finding his power swing. Isn't there someone in Triple-A that should get a shot in his place?
Ryan: We're going to show a lot of patience with him. There are days he shows his ability and others he is a little inconsistent. Yesterday was a good day, and his defense is more than adequate. The bat is almost the last thing to come in every player. We showed patience with Hunter, Cristian Guzman, Corey Koskie, etc. This guy has ability and we are going to give him every opportunity to succeed. He isn't going to hit 30 or 40 home runs, he isn't that type of hitter, but we are going to give him time.
houc0019: Mr. Ryan, can you tell us which positions you are looking to upgrade in the next couple months. For example, I think we need some power production from third base.
Ryan: We won 96 games with a third baseman without power, you don't need it at every position. There may not be a perfect roster, but the best teams record-wise are the Red Sox and Mets, but there are several ways to go about winning. We have a power center fielder and an offensive catcher, which can offset the lack of power at third and left. We are more apt to have defense in mind than some. Your point is definitely valid that you would like to have power at third.
JustTom: I was surprised to see Ramon Ortiz head for the pen after such a good start. Do you really think Slowey can do a better job or are we just throwing in potential?
Ryan: Sometimes it's not all that bad to send them to the bullpen. Ramon is going through a tough time in May, and we'll let him regroup in the bullpen and see what kind of production and response we get. Maybe this is a good move for him, so we can get him back to what he did in April.
u8mycar: Hi, I was just wondering if Lew Ford is going to get more playing time in left. Or maybe Jason Tyner?
Ryan: It depends on the pitcher a lot of times. Gardy [Ron Gardenhire] tries to get them all at-bats. Lew didn't have a Spring Training and is off to a slow start. Tyner got his at-bats yesterday, and he's off to a slow start, too. Tyner and Ford both had decent years last year, and we're trying to give everyone an opportunity to contribute. Usually you'll go with a hot hand. As soon as someone wants to wrestle for left field, Gardy will put him out there, and we can DH -- we'll mix and match.
Viney911_2: Could you explain service time and does that factor in to calling a guy up from the Minors?
Ryan: Service time is any time you get promoted to the Major League roster. We're trying to win baseball games. Service time is just a factor when it comes to arbitration.
terrytorii: Scott Baker seems to have done what Garza is unable to do by adding a pitch or two. I know everyone seems to be wanting Garza to be called up, but has he been able to effectively add the pitches needed to be at the Major League level?
Ryan: He has pitches. Two days ago he threw a nice game and used all of his pitches. It's just a matter of consistency with Matt. Baker was pitching better than Garza, which is why we brought him up. Garza has very few Minor League innings and we are looking for a little bit more command and control of his pitches. Garza is doing just fine.
JustTom: What's it look like for getting a long-term deal with Santana?
Ryan: He is signed through 2008. Johan has repeatedly stated he would like to stay, which is a good sign.
JustTom: Are you going to get a deal done to keep Hunter?
Ryan: Torii also has stated he would like to stay, and his contract is up, as you know, after this year.
darthjigga: Does the new ballpark play any role in 2007 contract negotiations?
Ryan: No, the new ballpark would play a role in what kind of payroll we have. Likely it will take a jump, but that's not until 2010. Payroll is not a deciding factor for us. Look at clubs in the game with payrolls larger than us, they are going through a tough time. We need to worry about making good baseball decisions and not payroll. We'll take whatever is given, but don't worry about payroll.
dan76210: Pat Neshek is a great setup man, do you think he has closer potential in a few years?
Ryan: You can only find out if he is put into that position -- aggressiveness and the ability to perform under crucial situations. You just never know until you put him out there. Joe Nathan never had that opportunity with the Giants and we put him out there. Neshek has some of those attributes. With Nathan here, we have a good situation.
letzgostem: Who was your mentor (as GM) and is there one lesson he taught that has guided you through your career?
Ryan: Mr. McPhail. Andy. I have a huge amount of respect for him. He always taught me to listen to the people out there who are doing the work. Tap into those you hire to do their job.
MauerFan7: What is your favorite part of your job? Do you need another assistant?
Ryan: Watching the game. Once they get on the field, especially when you're winning. But it's the toughest part when you're not. Everything seems to be positive when you're winning and it's a tough go when you're in a streak when you're not -- reading the paper, watching the news, listening the radio, the environment. Not great to go through a time when you're not doing well because everything is affected -- your family life, how you're perceived.
letzgostem: Of the "five tools" which is the hardest to find?
Ryan: There is a need for power and it seems like everyone is looking for it -- with the exception of a couple. When the draft unfolds, the bats will go off the list in a hurry. Left-handed pitchers, power hitters and catchers are the most difficult players to find and keep in the game. They are always in great demand.
mlbrian2: What prospects do you forsee making an impact on the 2007 team? And/or the 2008 team?
Ryan: 2007 -- Our depth is in the pitching staff, which is good, you always like to have choices.
dan76210: How closely do you all monitor the college 'wooden bat' leagues, like the Texas Collegiate League (I live near a team, the Denton Outlaws).
Ryan: Our scouts monitor them closely -- we monitor all the college summer leagues. We also monitor and scout the independent leagues.
TR44: Great nugget of wisdom from Mr. McPhail. What else can you share about your business philosophy?
Ryan: Work ethic, pay attention to detail, delegate, and patience is a huge virtue for any general manager. Sometimes things don't happen in a week. You have to give players time. This isn't an immediate gratification game/industry. It's set up for failure unfortunately. You have to trust what you know and believe in and you have a chance to succeed. Don't change your philosophy just because things aren't going well. Hire well. That is the best piece of advice I can give you. Do it right the first time. We've been doing the same thing we did in the mid-90s when we were losing as we're doing now.
Ryan: We'll take one more question ... thank you again to everyone who participated!
Pigdog: Both Garza and Slowey are doing well in Triple-A. Would the decision to call up one starter over the other for a rotation role be based on statistics, advice from Triple-A managers, Major League experience, or a combination of the three?
Ryan: Not statistics, they are misleading. You can read a pitcher's line and it looked like he did well, but if he is deep in counts, reaches his pitch count early, etc., it's misleading. The pitching coach, manager and coordinator feels that he is mentally and physically ready to come up, someone who works with confidence and tempo, control the running game, throw the ball over the plate and give us a chance. Those attributes are tough to come by, and once you get up here it's different. You can't have a guy come up who is afraid. Thankfully, we have a couple of alternatives.
Ryan: Thank you again for participating in our Web chat. Please watch for more chats to come soon. Go Twins!
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.