7/17: Terry Ryan on John Gordon, Sano's Inconsistency, Gibson's Progress and More

The Twins and Braves are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1991 World Series with this brief two-game set at Target Field.

Before the days when he could watch the Twins anywhere on demand, Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan used to listen to broadcaster John Gibson, who called games from 1987-2011.

“Back in the day I [listened to him] because we never had Direct TV, where I would go to the TV and get it anytime, anywhere,” he said. “Well, now I can get it, but back in the day yeah. Yeah, I like John Gordon.”

Asked what distinguished Gordon, who was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame before the game today, a day after Torii Hunter was honored, Ryan said his commitment to the Twins organization in general — not just the major league team.

“There’s not a person I’ve ever talked with that’s not had a liking for John. He doesn’t just stay on the major league side, he’s in the scouting, he’s in the development. He’s in the affiliates. He’s in the draft, all stuff that he’s interested in,” said Ryan.

“He’s a baseball nut. I’ve been around him a lot in my life, he and I came here about the same year. So I’ve known him through the years, not only in the scouting area, but also in the major league area.”

Gordon never had an official role with the team that sent him to the small towns across America where Minnesota’s minor league affiliates were located.

“He never had stock in the minor leagues, but he always wanted to know about it,” said Ryan. “He would call the coaches and the managers down there. Everybody knew John, and he knew them. It was a good thing.

“I am thrilled to see him go into the Twins Hall of Fame.”

Sano’s defensive woes

Sano has seven errors at third base this year, two of which came last night on routine plays. At the same time, when he has made difficult plays look easy, creating an interesting dichotomy for he and the Twins to figure out.

“Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and call it rust right now, but if it continues then you’ve got concerns. Those are some plays that are no-doubters he should make them. Pop-ups are no-doubters. A few of the ground balls have been no-doubters,” said Ryan when asked if it is rust or something more.

“He’s made some fantastic plays in-between, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s rusty and hasn’t been over there and hasn’t played third basically for about a year. Because when we took him from Chattanooga about this time last year, he came up as a DH. So he hadn’t played DH for a year. Rust.”

Unsolicited, he added that Sano he may be taking his offensive woes — relative to how he performed at the plate last season — to the field with him. Sano is hitting .241/.345/.465 with 14 home runs through Saturday; he hit .269/.385/.530 with 18 homers last year.

“The other thing I’m gonna mention about that, he’s not been hitting. Once he starts hitting, I think the fielding is gonna fall in line too. Let’s put it that way,” said Ryan.

“Most of the time when guys hit, their defense takes care of itself. He’s not been hitting. I suspect he’s been thinking about what’s going on what that bat.”

Sano came up as a third baseman, but was moved to right field at the beginning of the season. (Photo credit: Cumulus Media)
Sano came up as a third baseman, but was moved to right field at the beginning of the season. (Photo credit: Cumulus Media)

Asked point-blank if his move to right field may have disrupted his development at third, Ryan dismissed the notion.

“I totally disagree with you, because I felt … and I think a lot of people felt that we needed to try to keep the best hitters around here, and Plouffe was an accomplished third baseman to the point that you didn’t have to worry about him too much,” he said.

“Right field, I think in time Sano would have been a good right fielder in time. So we tried to fit the pieces together, and consequently it didn’t work out the way we had planned. Plouffe got hurt, Sano comes back, Park went down — all that stuff that’s been a compilation of our problems.”

The emergence of Kepler also has kept Sano at third.

“I don’t know, I think eventually it would have worked, but obviously there were other things that got into the equation, and here we are. So he’s playing third, Kepler has taken right field, showing that he can handle it and stuff like that,” he said.

“A year from now, we may be talking different again. All right, what guy is Kepler? Is he gonna go this way, or is he gonna have the sophomore slump? Alright, we’re looking back on it, it didn’t quite work out.”

Gibson needs to attack 

Gibson has been steady, but has yet to reach his ceiling as a starter. (Photo credit: Cold Omaha)
Gibson has been steady, but has yet to reach his ceiling as a starter. (Photo credit: Cold Omaha)

Asked about Kyle Gibson, a 28 year old with 83 career starts, is at, Ryan said that he’s really a two-year player. Gibson was selected No. 22 overall in the 2009 draft and exceeded his rookie limits during the 2013 season.

He could have potentially risen through the minor league ranks quicker, but he had Tommy John surgery in 2011.

“He’s a two-year player — that’s where I’m gonna lead. His age and his service … now, he got hurt, and he was hurt coming out of college and all that stuff, so he’s a little behind in that type of maturation. But he should be a guy that you can count on to give you a chance to win every time he takes the mound,” said Ryan.

“He can show plus pitches right across the board. For me, I wish he’d attack the zone instead of pick at it, maybe, as much as anything. I would love to see him attack the strike zone more, and not get 3-2 on so many guys and stuff like that.”

Ryan says that, at the very least, he’s a third starter.

“For me, he can be a guy that’s a third starter for sure. He’s got a beautiful delivery, he’s around the plate all the time. He’s got a three-pitch mix. He’s athletic, probably our best fielding pitcher. He holds the running game pretty good, and I think he’s on this trend, but then all of a sudden, when we get a little lull, and then he gets back and on the path,” he said.

“I would like to think at this point in his age and his experience, that okay, we can count on him for 200 innings next year. That’s where I’m at with him.

“He’s gotta separate himself. He’s capable.”

Asked if Gibson, who is amicable off the field, lacks a killer instinct, Ryan said no.

“It’s in there. But there are too many instances where he doesn’t attack the zone. That’s all,” he said.

“Come on, attack that god-dang strike zone and let’s go. Get us out of the inning, and get us back at-bat, and establish yourself as a guy that can pitch out of damage control.

“That’s where he’s at. He should be so good.”

Other notes

  • Trevor Plouffe is getting better, but still feels pain. “He’s doing fine. He’s making progress, but there’s still some things when he’s sleeping and moving. Same stuff.”
  • D.J. Baxendale got a call up is a reliever right now in Triple-A Rochester, but could become a starter again. “We got a pretty nice staff out there, so he kinda slid right into the relief core. He helped firm that up some,” said Ryan. “He’s been good. He did a nice job in Chattanooga as a starter, and we wanted to get him up there to the next level, because he deserved that promotion and pitched himself out of there, but it fit best in the bullpen. But he can start.”
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The Twins and Braves are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1991 World Series with this brief two-game set at Target Field.

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