Column: Ultimately, Terry Ryan is the one responsible

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2006

Jon Laging, Talking Sports

Looking out the window and watching it rain makes you appreciate the Metrodome. The Minnesota Twins comeback against Detroit after losing the first game may not have been accomplished in an open air stadium.

It seems that of all the venues for Major League Baseball, Minnesota could most use a roof. I see that Sid Hartman, dean of sportswriters in the Twin Cities, is already beating the drum for a domed stadium. If the Twins keep on winning that won&8217;t hurt the cause either. Maybe Carl Pohlad could chip in a little more? Nah, that won&8217;t happen.

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Our Twins started winning and they have kept on winning, caught and passed the White Sox and at this writing are closing in on the Tigers. Maybe it&8217;s time to sit back and ask why? They have not succumbed to the pressure of the Central Division race. They responded to pressure in the same righteous way they responded to the dissolution of the team, particularly the pitching staff.

They no longer have their third baseman, shortstop and left fielder. Granted the third baseman was invited to leave and the shortstop was traded. However, Shannon Stewart was injured twice and is now out for the season. Torii Hunter &8220;The face of the Twins&8221; was out for a month and Luis Castillo has been in and out all season.

But that&8217;s just the tip of the iceberg. What really disappeared was the starting pitching staff.

What was envisioned at the start of the season was down to tattered remnants. Cy Young winner Johan Santana was trying to hold the staff together as the Twins headed into the last two months of season. Not only was fourth starter Kyle Lohse demoted, their fifth starter Scott Baker was back in the minors. New phenom Francisco Liriano was out with an injury, perhaps for the season. And it looked like bellwether Brad Radke would never pitch again. The team was &8220;Coming home on a wing and a prayer.&8221; However, during the last month the Twins scrapped and fought, overcame their injuries and are coming home, as we head into the last weeks of the season, fighting for the championship.

There were a number of reasons. The &8220;piranha&8221; came to the front. The bullpen continued to be the best in the American League. Santana was the anchor and stopper and no matter what, the team knew that every fifth game they had Santana and most likely a win. Every five games the Twins would have one win and if they split the other four they have three wins out of five and a .600 winning record. What is Detroit&8217;s winning percentage at this time .597.

Another important factor in the Twins playing .600 or better were two minor league pitchers, Matt Garza and Boof Bonser came up to the majors and battled every start out.

But, perhaps the most important member of the Twins organization was General Manager Terry Ryan. It is manager Ron Gardenhire&8217;s job to manage with the players he has available. It is Terry Ryan&8217;s job to supply those players.

Ryan has done a marvelous job this year. He pulled the trigger on Tony Batista and traded Juan Castro so Gardenhire was forced to use Bartlett.

Ryan seems oriented toward pitchers and sometimes you question him, maybe a few more draft choices and trades should go for position players? For example, the A.J. Pierzynski trade. Ryan did not get one position player for a starting left-handed batting catcher. All he got were pitchers. Of course, the pitchers were Liriano, Nathan and Bonser. That seemed to work out. So I guess I will forgive him Batista and Sierra. What other team could lose three starting pitchers and replace them with two rookie starters, including Bonser and a rookie reliever Pat Neshak.

At the end of season, the Twins may have the best pitching staff in the Majors. Who supplies the players? Why Terry Ryan, that&8217;s who.

(Jon Laging writes about regional sports from his home in Preston.)