TORONTO — As the game between the Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers played on televisions in the visitors’ clubhouse Wednesday, Twins players looked ahead — despite the fact they had one more game to play in their season.
“Everyone has to get better at certain things,” outfielder Denard Span said.
There were pitching problems, fielding problems, pitching problems, offensive droughts — and more pitching problems. The Twins never spent a day at .500 and were 10 games out of first place by mid-May.
On Wednesday, they ended the season the way it began — by getting swept in a series. Toronto edged them 2-1. The wins lost three one-run games to the Blue Jays and finished 66-96 — the first time the Twins have had consecutive seasons of at least 96 losses. The season began with them getting swept on the road by another AL East team, the Orioles.
After the game, players dressed quickly and filled out declaration forms to return to the United States. And there were vows to make the season last longer next year.
“A heck of a year by a few guys,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “(Joe) Mauer had a good year and Willingham and guys like that. Plouffey (Trevor Plouffe) hit some home runs, Some good things happened but, as I told the guys in there, not enough good things.
“You keep working at it. Go home this winter and keep working on what we all need to improve on, the little things that each player is going to look back on and think about. We’ll be better and get back to where we need to be. It’s a long process, but it doesn’t have to be a long process.”
The Twins’ busy offseason starts early Thursday morning, when General Manager Terry Ryan will hold the first of several meetings with members of the Twins’ coaching staff.
After two last-place finishes in the AL Central, changes could be coming to the staff. The Twins think highly of Class AAA Rochester manager Gene Glynn and Rochester hitting coach Tom Brunansky and might decide to mix in a couple of new perspectives.
Ryan is scheduled to join owner Jim Pohlad and President Dave St. Peter on Friday for media sessions. There’s a chance that he will officially take the interim tag off his GM title and announce his commitment to turning things around, after replacing Bill Smith in the role a year ago.
“As soon as that is finalized, you will be the first to know,” Ryan said.
Ryan acknowledged that the roster needs more than just tweaking. In addition to starting pitching, the Twins are unsure what their starting middle infield combination will be next season. If they trade Span for starting pitching, their range in the outfield will be affected negatively.
And the Twins aren’t settled on Plouffe at third base. He belted 24 homers but batted .236 and wasn’t consistent in the field.
“He’s a work in progress,” Ryan said.
The Twins have some quality players but also have many holes to fill. After watching them lose 96 games, everyone knows that.
What’s unknown is how they will go about augmenting the roster to go with what’s expected to be an altered coaching staff.
Mauer, heading into an offseason in which he doesn’t have to worry about recovering from an injury or illness, said he thinks the Twins just need a few moves to turn things around.
“I think they have the right man for the job,” Mauer said of Ryan. “He’s been there and done it. He’s put together some really good teams here in the past. I think they have the right man in charge.”
Ryan was asked if the team was better off than it was a year ago.
“No,” Ryan said flatly. “We’re in the same spot, last place. Just like we were last year. That’s not good.”
And that will likely lead to some new faces.
“We’ll just see how the winter goes,” said Gardenhire, who’s expected to return as manager, “and go from there.”