Tag:Ron Gardenhire
Posted on: June 16, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 6:23 pm

Gardenhire: "This will give me teaching tools"

Out of the ruins, sometimes, come plans.

Whatever happens the rest of the way in this odd Twins season -- they've now won 11 of 13 after falling 20 games below .500 -- what's already happened will shape what the club does next spring.

Nobody could have predicted that Minnesota would have put 15 players on the disabled list so far this season -- most in the majors. But what the Twins never would have predicted would be the fundamental mistakes they've had to endure.

An organization that prides itself on doing the little things right has, at times over the early part of the season, watched a train wreck in that department. Missed signs, missed relay throws, baserunning blunders.

"It gives me a tool," manager Ron Gardenhire says. "That's one of the things I've already thought about for next year. This will give me teaching tools."

In other words, when Gardenhire and his staff call for yet another round of fundamental drills in Fort Myers, Fla., next spring, there will be no room for questioning from the players.

Gardenhire's immediate rebuttal will be, hey, remember that time in Chicago last May when Alexi Casilla screwed up on the bases, or when Danny Valencia botched a rundown?

Ironic thing is, Minnesota emphasizes fundamentals as much as any team in the bigs in the spring.

But the flip side is, that's why the mistakes aren't tolerable.

Yes, the Twins have had to count on players they never would have imagined would fit into their plans in 2011 -- like Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dinkelman. But as far as they're concerned, while some players may be more talented than others, everybody can execute the fundamental part of the game ... whether your name is Joe Mauer or Trevor Plouffe.

Likes: Seattle calling up rookie second baseman Dustin Ackley. ... Brian Gordon on the hill for the Yankees on Thursday. ... Former colleague George Dohrmann's excellent piece on Jim Tressel and the Ohio State football mess in Sports Illustrated. ... Brad Paisley's new tune Eastwood featuring the voice -- and whistling talents -- of the song's inspiration, Clint Eastwood. ... Modern Family.

Dislikes: Poor Edwin Rodriguez. The Marlins are sinking fast -- they've lost 15 of 16 now, and seven in a row -- and if we know anything about Florida owner Jeffrey Loria, it's that he wastes no time in aiming a sharp knife at his managers. Hey Edwin, duck!

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Mind on a permanent vacation
"The ocean is my only medication
"Wishing my condition ain't ever gonna go away
"'Cause now I'm knee deep in the water somewhere
"Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair
"Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair"

-- Zac Brown Band, Knee Deep

Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:32 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 2:33 pm

Now at second: Nishioka's translator?

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins will take the art of importing a Japanese free agent to a unique level when infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka runs through Minnesota's first full-squad workout of the spring on Wednesday.

As Nishioka and Alexi Casilla familiarize themselves with each other this spring, manager Ron Gardenhire says he intends to have Nishioka's translator stationed in the infield during drills.

"Once the games start, it will get more entertaining," Gardenhire joked.

The purpose of keeping the translator close by, even if it means getting caked with infield dirt, is very simple.

"I want Nishi to communicate with the other players if any of them have any questions," Gardenhire said.

The general thinking is that Casilla will be the Twins' shortstop this season and that Nishioka will play second base. But the Twins say right now that no determination has been made and that that could flip. Nishioka, the Twins' first Asian-born player and the 2010 MVP of the Nippon League, was a shortstop in Japan.

Gardenhire said the early-spring plan is to work each man out at each position and go from there.

But the main thing early, he said, is to make sure Nishioka is comfortable.

"We had a little conversation today," Gardenhire said. "I want to make sure he understands we know he can play and that he doesn't have anything to prove. He's an All-Star. He's won a batting title. We know he can play."

Nishioka has been in town for several days but has been working out on the Twins' minor-league fields. He made an appearance in the big-league clubhouse early Tuesday morning but did not participate in the workouts.

"I was looking forward to participating in practice starting the 23rd with the first workout, so I wanted to be in the best shape possible," said Nishioka, who will wear No. 1. "I'm more excited than nervous."

Nishioka said he spoke with former big leaguer Kaz Matsui before joining the Twins "but it was brief, just good luck, nothing specific." He also said, when asked about adjusting to a new life in the majors, "I would like to learn English and try and adjust to that."

Meanwhile, Gardenhire is hard at work on his Japanese. At least, certain words and phrases.

He was leafing through a small pocket book called "Survival Japanese" on Tuesday morning and has already downloaded and printed a handful of pages' worth of Japenese baseball terms.

How's his Japanese coming?

"I have it in my book, not in my vocabulary," Gardenhire said, before joking, "If there's a nice-looking chick, I may ask him about her."

Seriously, Gardenhire said, "it's hard for me to put it in one word. But I want to do it in one sentence. He's going to understand me before it's all done. We're going to get it."

Sunblock Day? Lots of fog this morning. But that gave way to sun, 83 degrees and smiles. Pass the sunblock.

Likes: Always good to see former Twins manager Tom Kelly in uniform and assisting in drills here. ... Likewise, same with Hall of Famer Al Kaline at Detroit's camp in Lakeland. ... Oh my goodness, now Twins catcher Joe Mauer is a spokesman for Head & Shoulders Shampoo. Well lathered, Mauer. ... Nino's Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant remains on top of its game in both the chicken parmesan and pizza departments. I can attest to both over the past few nights.

Dislikes: What they ought to do to the scumbag who poisoned the trees at Auburn is turn the environmentalists loose on him ... on Arbor Day.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I've been burning down all my yesterdays
"I can't stick around to see the smoke
"'Cause we’re on our way, and we don’t care where
"There’s no time to sit around and mope"

-- The Push Stars, Minnesota

Posted on: October 7, 2010 8:46 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2010 11:15 am

History between Gardenhire, Wendelstedt not good

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's never expected when a manager gets ejected in a playoff game, but when the Twins' Ron Gardenhire was run by plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt in the seventh inning of Game 2, it wasn't exactly a shocker.

The history between the two is not good.

Wendelstedt has ejected Gardenhire multiple times, and there have been at least two public spats between the two -- including a particularly ugly incident in Detroit in August, 2009.

Gardenhire, still livid following the Twins' 5-2 Game 2 loss in the AL Division Series here Thursday during which he was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing a non-strike call to Lance Berkman, insisted the history between the two men had nothing to do with Thursday's ejection.

"Hunter and I talked and we kind of straightened all our stuff away," Gardenhire said tersely. "It has nothing to do with that at all, all right?"

Wendelstedt was not made available to reporters afterward.

Bob Watson, major-league baseball's vice-president for on-field operations, echoed Gardenhire.

"That's in the past," Watson told CBSSports.com regarding whether what appears to be an ongoing feud between Wendelstedt and Gardenhire played into Thursday's incident. "That had nothing to do with tonight.

"That's all squared away. It's non-issue."

Making Wendelstedt available might have helped make that more believable.

As for the Gardenhire-Wendelstedt dust-up in Detroit in 2009, following the ejection, according to Gardenhire at the time, the umpire taunted the manager by asking, "How do you like that?"

"That's the second time I've run into this, with this guy," Gardenhire told reporters after the Aug. 7, 2009, game in Detroit. "He's got an attitude. At home a few years back, he said, 'You're just out here for showtime.' He's got a smart mouth, and tonight was ridiculous, really."

Gardenhire continued: "A lot of the calls [were] no good He had a bad night. He didn't probably think so because he's god, as umpires go. ... I was really disappointed. There was no reason for me to get thrown out of that game."

Speaking to a pool reporter afterward, Wendelstedt said, "Basically, for a manager that has been around for so long, you would think he would understand the way baseball operates, that a warning is a warning."

In what essentially was a must-win Game 2 Thursday night here, the Twins and Yankees were tied at 2-2 when Minnesota starter Carl Pavano issued a walk to Jorge Posada to start the seventh. Then, with the count 1 and 2 on Lance Berkman, Wendelstedt ruled a Pavano sinker ball two when television replays appeared to show it should have been strike three.

On the very next pitch, Berkman ripped a go-ahead double into the left-center gap.

Gardenhire then went out to the mound for a visit with Pavano, Wendelstedt walked to the mound to hurry the game along and, from there, predictably, Gardenhire walked off the mound with Wendelstedt, giving the umpire an earful.

Wendelstedt ejected Gardenhire about the time the two reached home plate.

"I went out to make sure my guys were straight on what we were going to do next and make my side of the story known," Gardenhire said, explaining his trip to the mound with Berkman standing on second, the Twins trailing 3-2, nobody out and Brett Gardner about to bat. "I thought the ball was a strike, he didn't call it a strike and I wanted to make sure he knew that.

"But I wanted to get him away from my guys because there are a lot of guys full of emotion at that time and I wanted Carl to concentrate. I wanted to let [my guys know] they were going to bunt [Berkman] over, and to get the out. That's what I told my guys on the mound, and then I said what I had to say."

The dispute undoubtedly will help catapult the umpires back into the spotlight this postseason. Gardenhire was the second manager ejected on Thursday. Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon was given the heave-ho earlier in the day.

Posted on: March 7, 2010 10:07 pm

Hardy hopes to solve mystery in Minnesota

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- You like fresh starts in the spring? Well come visit for a moment with shortstop J.J. Hardy, whose tale is a classic in the genre:

Hardy, part of Milwaukee's young wrecking crew, falls off the cliff in 2009.

His 24 homers in 2008 melt to 11 in '09.

His 74 RBI in '08 shrink to 47 in '09.

He scuffles so much the Brewers ship him back to Triple-A Nashville. Then, looking to trim their payroll this winter, they ship him to Minnesota for center fielder Carlos Gomez.

So here Hardy is, new Twins uniform, blank slate, hopes as high as his production once was.

Credit for some of those hopes goes to Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra and special spring training instructor (and, of course, Hall of Famer) Rod Carew.

"I've made some pretty big changes, and for the better," Hardy says. "Some things I've known I've needed to do, and I just haven't been doing them."

What Vavra and Carew have succeeded (so far) in doing with Hardy is this: Last year, he fell into a bad habit of twisting his upper body back toward the catcher too much as he was loading his swing. What Vavra suggested, and Carew has helped fine tune, is getting Hardy's hands and back elbow in a spot that makes it hard for him to rotate his upper body so extravagantly.

Now, instead of turning back too far before he launches his swing forward, Hardy says he's coming straight to the ball in a shorter, more compact manner.

"It's a new start, and I'm excited about that," Hardy says.

Especially alarming were two things: His deteriorating power, and his declining effectiveness against lefty pitchers. He's never hit right-handers particularly well, but he hit only .169 against lefties in '09 (as opposed to a .299 career average against lefties through '08).

Can Hardy bounce back?

Did Vavra unlock an eternal mystery?

Will Carew's suggestions put Hardy back on track?

For now, the smile is back, and that's a start.

"I'm going to have fun. Last year, I was miserable. For some reason last year, I felt more pressure on myself. If I was 2-for-4 or 1-for-3, I was miserable because it just wasn't good enough.

"I'd come to the park in a bad mood. It was a long, frustrating year for me."

Sunblock Day? Slow start, but it was in the 70s by day's end Sunday and it is supposed to remain in the 70s for the rest of the week. Let the burning begin.

Likes: Nice conversation the other day with former Twins manager Tom Kelly, in camp helping as an instructor. The other day, he was on a half-field working with the infield defense and with the pitchers in their fielding practice. He's doing well and roves throughout the Twins' minor-league system during the summer, evaluating and teaching. As for spring camp, he'll be here through the end. "Gardy wanted me to come for the whole spring," T.K. says of manager Ron Gardenhire, as if it came as somewhat of a surprise. ... Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Paul Molitor also are in uniform as guest instructors. Between those three and T.K., it's an impressive sight. ... Nice conversation also with former outfielder and first baseman Dmitri Young, who is retired and was visiting his brother, Twins' outfielder Delmon. Dmitri says he's retired with no regrets, and his top priority now is being a father to his three kids. He brought his oldest, 12-year-old Owen, who served as the Twins' batboy on Saturday. ... Nino's Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria in Fort Myers remains as delicious as ever, and it was good to hear that the owner of the joint, Graziano, was able to get away to his native Italy for three weeks last summer. More impressive, he spent the time with some friends making food and feeding people following last April's earthquake centered in Abruzzo mountain region of Italy.

Dislikes: Aw, I'll have left Florida by the time Wilco plays in Clearwater on March 23. I've had a heck of a time catching up to them over the past year. Would

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I feel alright, it's a Minnesota night
"You've got nothing left to show me but your smile
"Stars so bright on this Minnesota night
"Can we cut the conversation for a little while?"

-- The Push Stars, Minnesota

Posted on: February 24, 2009 10:13 am

The Twins, Game 163 and 2009

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- But for one pitch last September, it could have been the Minnesota Twins moving into the playoffs instead of the Chicago White Sox.

Yes, that one pitch techinically came in the dramatic one-game playoff last Sept. 30, when Jim Thome drove a Nick Blackburn pitch over the center-field wall in U.S. Cellular Field to clinch the AL Central title with a 1-0 victory.

But it could have been any number of one other pitches during the month of September as the Twins made their unlikely charge.

"I had a tough stretch during that long road trip," says closer Joe Nathan, referring to the late September swing through Baltimore, Cleveland and Tampa Bay, a trip during which the Twins went 4-6. "We kicked the ball around a little emore than usual. I threw one away."

Nathan cited those as moments that gnaw at him, moments that continue to motivate him.

Generally speaking in professional sports, teams drawing motivation from the previous season and carrying it forward is overblown. Players change teams, they move on. Other things in life come up.

In the Twins' case, however, they may take a bit of motivation from the sudden-death ending to their 2008 season.

"For me, that's over with," manager Ron Gardenhire says. "It's a whole new year in front of us. You can't relieve the past.

"You can use it as a learning experience. It was one pitch. One big hit could have made the difference for us."

Especially for younger players such as outfielders Carlos Gomez and Denard Span, and Blackburn, who is expected to be a mainstay in this year's rotation, the highs and lows of last September can't hurt in 2009.

"It was a good experience for them," Gardenhire says. "That was a big stage. Everyone was watching us. We were it. We were watched. It was fun."

Likes: Minnesota skipper Ron Gardenhire when asked whether last year's one-game playoff with the White Sox will intensify the Sox-Twins rivalry. "Only with us and A.J.," the manager quipped, referring to former Twin and current Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "Him showing the ball to our dugout (after holding onto it when Ken Griffey Jr. threw out Michael Cuddyer at the plate to end the fifth inning). Guys were saying, 'Boy, he really pisses us off.' That's what he does best. We know it. He knows it. That's why we love him."

Dislikes: The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News filing for bankruptcy the other day. Several other newspapers having filed for bankruptcy. The bad news in the auto industry. The banking situation. Foreclosures. Thank goodness for spring training. Can we start getting some good news sometime soon?

Sunblock day? Eventually. It's really cool in the mornings this week -- like, wear-a-jacket cool -- but toward late morning the warm sun takes over.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day

"City girls seem to find out early
How to open doors with just a smile"

-- The Eagles, Lyin' Eyes

Posted on: September 25, 2008 1:00 am

Buehrle good, gets little help

MINNEAPOLIS -- Part of what especially frustrated the Chicago White Sox in Thursday's 3-2 loss to Minnesota was that ace Mark Buehrle was on the mound and, with any run support at all, he walks away with a win instead of maddeningly watching his record fall to 14-12.

"Great game," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of Buehrle. "You can't ask for any better than that.

"We better start hitting."

Buehrle held the Twins to three runs and eight hits over seven innings. He threw 121 pitches and, during his time on the mound, he held Minnesota, a very good clutch-hitting team, to 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The way he worked catcher Joe Mauer, who came into the game leading the American League with a .329 batting average, was especially impressive.

In four at-bats, Mauer tapped four ground balls -- a couple harder than others, but nothing significant -- to second base.

What especially impressed Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire, and an early tip-off that Buehrle had his 'A' game, was during Mauer's second-inning at-bat. One out, bases loaded and Buehrle falls behind Mauer 3-and-1.


"He got him to swing down-and-away, and that never happens with Joe," Gardenhire said. "That tells you a little bit about how good this guy is."

The swing resulted into a ground ball to second base, and the play actually scored what turned out to be the winning run when Mauer beat the double-play relay to first base.

"He can run, too," Gardenhire said. "That's the bonus we have with our catcher."

By evening's end, after 42,126 had hollered themselves hoarse and the AL Central had narrowed to a nearly impossibly slim margin with just four games left -- the White Sox lead the Twins by half-a-game -- everybody was spent.

"Exhausted," Gardenhire said. "I mean, exhausted. You sit in that dugout, it's intense. You sit in that dugout and look at the people that are going crazy ... this is what you play for."

Posted on: September 19, 2008 12:07 am
Edited on: September 19, 2008 12:07 am

Butcher Boy, pennant races and Miss America

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Minnesota got what manager Ron Gardenhire called its biggest win of the season Thursday thanks in part to something called the "Butcher Boy."

Much as the skipper may be tempted, the term does not mean putting Twins relief pitchers on the butcher block and chopping them up.

It was one of those wild, memorable, late-season, pennant-race games that turned in an instant. And that instant in Minnesota's 11-8 win came with two runs in during the Twins' five-run ninth.

It was 8-8 on second baseman Alexi Casilla's unlikely game-tying, two-run homer. Twins were on first and second with none out and, when Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon called for lefty reliever Trever Miller to replace Dan Wheeler, Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire countered by sending light-hitting shortstop Adam Everett to bat for Kubel.

The idea was for Everett to bunt the runners over.

But Tampa Bay's infield was moving and scrambling all over, charging at the corners with shortstop Jason Bartlett scurrying over to third to cover there.

With the count 2-1 on Everett, Gardenhire and the rest of the Twins were screaming "Butcher Boy!" to Everett from the dugout.

"We always talk about it, when they're running all over the place (on defense), we give (the hitter) an option to slash," Gardenhire said. "If they're moving all over the place, take a whack at it."

Everett did and rifled an RBI double off of the left-field fence, giving the Twins a 9-8 lead.

With a four-game losing streak and trailing the White Sox by 2 1/2 games in the AL Central, it was as welcome a sight as an ice-cold beverage here in hot and humid Florida.

Butcher Boy? Come again?

"You know, the commercial where the little guy is always cutting stuff up?" Gardenhire said.

Uh, nope, can't say I'm familiar with that one.

But a little guy cutting stuff up?

Perfect for the Twins, no?

Oh, and the screams of "Butcher Boy"? Everett didn't hear anything coming from the dugout.

"I was completely locked in," he said. "I was trying to move the runners."

Likes: The Cubs did well when they latched onto catcher Geovany Soto. Did they ever. ... Old friend Patrick Reusse, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist, in town for this series. ... Finding out just yesterday that my buddy Steve Buckley, the Boston Herald columnist, did an offbeat, non-sports column in May on my high school classmate and pal Kaye-Lani Rae Rafko Wilson, better known as Miss America 1988. The column is archived -- as in, you can only read a couple of paragraphs and must pay for the rest -- and I haven't even read it yet, but here's the link. ... My rental car, a Mustang. Fun driving this week. Too bad it's not a convertible.

Dislikes: Man, it's nail-biting time with this economy, isn't it? ... Whatever filthy-mouthed "music" was playing in Minnesota's clubhouse following Thursday's big win. No idea who was "singing", or rapping, but it was Obscene with a capital O. ... Milwaukee's tough, tough loss Thursday. I mean, I wish the Cubs no ill, but they're pretty much already in the playoffs, and what a killer way to go for the Brewers. Leading 6-2, two out and none on in the ninth? And you lose? I can hear the hearts breaking from here.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I was staying at the Marriott
"With Jesus and John Wayne
"I was waiting for a chariot
"They were waiting for a train"

-- Warren Zevon, My Ride's Here


Posted on: February 20, 2008 7:33 pm

Catching up with Albert Pujols

JUPITER, Fla. -- Give St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols points for honesty.

Was he concerned that manager Tony La Russa might not return for 2008 last October?

"I was worried about my injury," Pujols told me Wednesday morning. "I wasn't worried about him coming back."

That doesn't mean Pujols didn't want La Russa back.

"When we re-signed him, I was really excited for him because of our relationship and what kind of manager he is," Pujols said.

As for the injury Pujols was concerned with, it's a chronically strained ligament in his right elbow. It hurt most of last season, and though offseason surgery was an option, he chose to go the rehabilitation route this winter than to go under the knife.

The elbow caused a stir when he first reported earlier this week, especially when La Russa said the Cardinals will have to monitor it and when Pujols said "If it blows out, it's going to blow out. You can't control that."

But during our conversation Wednesday, he said: "I think people made my elbow worse than it really is. I just laugh. They think they know. They don't know. Only I know."

La Russa reiterated on Wednesday that the Cardinals will watch him closely and noted that throwing isn't the only issue for Pujols.

"You can tweak it from swinging, which is what happened last year," La Russa said. "He's got an issue there."

An issue the Cardinals don't need to blow up on them.

Likes: Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire lowering the boom and telling veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez that those big diamond earrings don't fly with the Twins. Not while a guy is on the field, they don't. ... Let's see how Fidel Castro stepping down in Cuba affects the majors. You can bet they're watching closely in New York -- as are several individual clubs -- because a thaw in the Cold War almost certainly means more Cuban players in the majors (without having to defect!) and possibly major-league games in Cuba. How about the Dodgers' spring training camp in 1947, Jackie Robinson's rookie year? They held it in Havana, Cuba. Then they moved to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., the next season. ... Driving across the state on Route 80 and passing, in Clewiston, the Git-N-Split (fast food drive-thru joint) and the Git-N-Go (convenience store). Glad I didn't pass an outhouse with the "Git" theme to it. ... I'm telling you, sitting in a driftwood booth mere steps from the intracoastal waterway at Le Tub in Hollywood, Fla., the other night, munching on a cheeseburger (rated best burgers in the country a couple of years ago by GQ magazine), watching the boats go by and the sun setting, I was seconds from calling both my editor and my wife and telling them I was never to return. Then I woke up.

Dislikes: Rain in the forecast in the Fort Myers area the next couple of days.

Sunblock day? Sneaky sun today. Cloudy for much of the morning over in Jupiter, but the sun was out enough to warrant some sort of protection. We're cooking along in the upper-70s these days at most of the camps I've been to.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"Can't find a damn thing in this place
"Nothing's where I left it before
"Set of keys and a dusty suitcase
"Car wheels on a gravel road

-- Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com