Friday, October 5, 2012

The coaching chopping block

Joe Vavra, on the job
for seven seasons, was
the newbie on the
coaching staff.
It was quite the purge at Target Field on Thursday, the day after the Twins completed a second-straight season with the worst record in the American League.

By the time Terry Ryan finished meeting one-on-one with the coaching staff, only manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson were left in their accustomed positions — and they on one-year deals.

Bullpen coach and spring-training scheduler Rick Stelmaszek, who joined the coaching staff while the team was still playing at Metropolitan Stadium, was the first to get the ax — and when that word broke, the implications were obvious. If Stelly was getting pushed out, nobody was safe.

Rick Stelmaszek
had been with the
Twins for 32 years.
Also gone: third base coach Steve Liddle, first base coach Jerry White, and trainer Rick McWane. Bench coach Scott Ullger and hitting coach Joe Vavra are being reassigned to outfield instruction and infield instruction respectively; these do not figure to be major league positions, but I suspect we'll get a fuller spelling-out of things today, when Ryan, owner Jim Pohlad and team president Dave St. Peter meet with reporters.

This kind of purge is fairly common with other organizations, but not with the Twins. Even when the managers changed under Pohlad ownership, the coaching staffs remained largely intact.

Scott Ullger, at
various times, has
been the first base
coach, the hitting
coach, the third base
coach and the
bench coach.
From my perspective, the coaching staff the past several years has had two significant omissions: First, there was no native Spanish speaker. I suspect that part of the problem the Twins have had with such players as Francisco Liriano, Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla has been communication.  Second, the only infielders on the staff since Al Newman was fired after the 2005 season were the manager and the hitting coach, neither of whom should be expected to be focused on making sure the shortstop is properly positioned or on refining the second baseman's pivot.

Removing five of the six coaches opens plenty of opportunity for new faces. It is being widely assumed that the Triple A staff — Gene Glynn, Bobby Cuellar and Tom Brunansky — will be brought in, and Paul Molitor has apparently indicated an interest in returning to the coaching staff, which he left when Gardenhire became manager.

Let's see:

Jerry White had the
longest major league
playing career on
the staff: 11 seasons.
Manager: Gardenhire
Pitching coach: Anderson
Bench coach: Molitor (replacing Ullger)
Hitting coach: Brunansky (Vavra)
Third base coach: Glynn (Liddle)
First base coach: ? (White)
Bullpen coach: Cuellar (Stelmaszek)

Glynn and Molitor are former infielders, so that concern of mine is met. I don't know that the Spanish speaker concern is. 

Molitor would likely become the backup manager, a role Ullger has filled under Gardenhire — taking over after ejections or if Gardy is ill. And if the belief that Gardenhire is now on a short leash is correct, Molitor might be the new manager in waiting.

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