12/07/11 5:56 PM EST
Gardenhire hopeful for quick rebound in '12
Skipper points to Carroll, Doumit and health of star trio
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
Gardenhire said the Twins' top priority during the Winter Meetings remains trying to re-sign free-agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer. The Twins reportedly offered Cuddyer a three-year deal worth about $24 million on Tuesday, the same day that Cuddyer's wife, Claudia, gave birth to twin daughters.
"I just left him a message matter of fact, just to congratulate him on the birth of his twins," Gardenhire said. "And as I told him, it's kind of an omen, having twins. He should be a Twin."
Gardenhire added that he'd also like to see free-agent outfielder Jason Kubel back in a Twins uniform, and was glad to see the Twins signed Matt Capps to a one-year deal with an option for 2013. He also said he expects Capps to bounce back after a rough year that saw him post a 4.25 ERA with nine blown saves in 25 chances.
"I'm very confident," Gardenhire said. "He's a gamer and a first-class person, and I'm very excited. [Pitching coach] Rick Anderson and I are excited we signed him."
Gardenhire also indicated the Twins might add a starting pitcher via free agency, as they could have an open spot in the rotation if left-hander Brian Duensing moves to the bullpen.
"We're still working on it," Gardenhire said. "We're working on a lot of different things. It's a process. [General manager] Terry [Ryan] and the guys are up there getting after it pretty good. I've been on phone conversations with Terry pretty much every day. There's a lot of names out there."
Gardenhire said he likes the job that Ryan has done so far in trying to fix a team that lost 99 games last season, as he approved of the acquisitions of free agents Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit.
Gardenhire called Carroll -- who is expected to be the starting shortstop and bat second next season -- before he even signed his deal last month to talk about what his role would be with the Twins.
"I'm glad we got him," Gardenhire said. "He's going to fit real nice. We wanted to revamp our infield again and give us more options and we've got some pretty athletic infielders now."
Gardenhire is also excited about the versatility that Doumit provides, as he'll serve as backup catcher to Joe Mauer but will also see time in the outfield and at first base. And because of the flexibility Doumit brings, the Twins might carry a third catcher with Drew Butera remaining on the roster.
"He can play just about everywhere, outfield, DH, catch," Gardenhire said. "Everything really depends on a lot of other situations and what happens. But we like him. He's a gamer. He's another one of these guys that's a hard-nosed player. He can catch. He can swing the bat."
Mauer is still going to be the club's starting catcher next season, as the team hopes to see him behind the plate in 120-130 games while also seeing time at first base and designated hitter.
Gardenhire hasn't talked to Mauer recently but was aware of the fact that Mauer met with the media on Friday to say that he's fully healthy and getting ready for next season.
"I'm just letting him breathe," Gardenhire said. "He's going through a lot and been through a lot. Terry told me he's feeling great. He's pumped up and he's a little irritated, which is a good thing. Sometimes it's not a bad thing to get knocked around a little bit because you come back fighting a little bit. I'm sure Joe is going to come back fighting."
But Gardenhire said he has talked with first baseman Justin Morneau, and that everything is going along just fine regarding his concussion-like symptoms that plagued him at the end of the season. Morneau is still rehabbing after various surgeries -- he had operations done on his left wrist, left knee and right foot at the end of the season -- but is on track to be ready for Spring Training.
"We plan on him being our first baseman," Gardenhire said. "We'll go from there. If somebody tells me something different later on, we'll make adjustments. But we plan on him being our first baseman and Mauer catching."
Gardenhire also had positive news regarding center fielder Denard Span, who dealt with concussion problems of his own in the second half of the season after a collision at home plate on June 3. But Span did make a return late in the season, and has been working out this offseason in preparation for next year.
"He felt good at the end of the season and that was a bonus," Gardenhire said. "He got on the baseball field, played some games for us and made it through and felt great. I don't look for any problems with Span. I think he's going to be 100 percent come Spring Training."
Gardenhire, though, didn't want to use the injuries to Mauer, Morneau and Span -- who played in a combined 221 games last year -- as an excuse for the club finishing with the worst record in the American League in '11.
He said the Twins still have plenty to work on to improve in '12, and is hopeful that starting Spring Training workouts three days earlier will help the team better prepare for next year.
"I think if we get our players back on the field you'll have a pretty good baseball team -- if we can keep our guys out there," Gardenhire said. "There are things we need to do better. And those are the things we think about."