Twins Change To Try To Make Rochester Happy




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The hiring of a new minor league manager usually doesn't merit a mid-December news conference or a drop-in appearance by the parent organization's farm director.

But the Rochester Red Wings aren't the usual minor league franchise. The club has three retired numbers, one of which is 8,222—denoting the number of shareholders in the community-owned ballclub. Fans in Rochester have a vested interest in whether or not the team wins.

So when the Twins introduced Gene Glynn as the new Red Wings' manager, it was a sign of how important the Triple-A affiliation with Rochester is for Minnesota.

Glynn was meant to work for the Twins. It just took longer than anyone expected—Glynn and the Twins included—to happen.

Time Finally Came

Glynn is a Minnesota native and still lives in Waseca, Minn., about 75 miles south of the Twin Cities. He signed with the Expos as a nondrafted free agent in 1979 and has been in the game as a pro ever since, including 13 seasons as a major league coach between four clubs, most recently the Giants (2003-2006).

He's come close to working for the Twins previously; farm director Jim Rantz, who made the trip in mid-December to Rochester when Glynn was introduced to the local media and fans, said he's tried to hire Glynn on two previous occasion.

This time, the timing worked out. Glynn was ready to get back on the field after working as a pro scout for the Rays the last five seasons, including coverage of Minnesota's farm system and major league club. He's as familiar with the organization as someone can be coming in from the outside. The Twins needed credibility in the dugout and were looking for someone familiar with the way the organization wants to work.

"I look at it as, I was ready to get back on the field, and I have a good history with both clubs," he said. "Jim (Rantz) has been in the organization for over 50 years, and I know Terry (Ryan) so well, and he's so respected in the industry. Joe Lepel, Rob Antony, Bill Smith's still there. These are people I know and respect. Having scouted the Twins, I've seen those guys at the park, sat next to them at the park and built a lot of relationships over the years."

Rochester is the exception to the minor league rule that winning doesn't matter, and the Red Wings of late have not won. The Red Wings have been amazingly stable, serving as a Cardinals affiliate from 1929-1960, then spending 42 seasons as part of the Orioles organization. The Red Wings became a Twins affiliate in 2003, after five consecutive losing seasons from 1998-2002.

The Red Wings started winning again when the Twins' fortunes improved. Manager Stan Cliburn and his twin brother Stu (the pitching coach) helped pilot the team to five straight winning records before a losing mark in 2009. That prompted a change, as the Twins brought in former big league catcher Tom Nieto to manage the Red Wings.

That proved to be a disaster. Nieto not only lost 90-plus games two years in a row, but he also alienated fans and local media with his big league attitude. Maybe if his teams had won and if his players had gone on to help the parent team in Minnesota, Nieto might have kept his job. Instead, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire complained that players from the farm system weren't coming to the major leagues ready to help.

With their player-development contract coming up for renewal at the end of the 2012 season, the Twins decided they needed to make another change.

System Not On Overload

The manager can only do so much. The Twins' farm system has seen its talent dip a bit in recent years, both with a lack of power arms and in terms of athleticism. The Twins generally don't go over-slot to sign players who fall in the draft, and 2012 will mark their first single-digit first-round pick since 2001, when they took Joe Mauer first overall. Also, the Twins are just starting to reap the benefits of redoubled efforts in Latin America.

Rochester's 2012 club, though, has a chance to have some talent. Four of Minnesota's Top 10 Prospects should spend time there: outfielder Joe Benson, middle infielder Brian Dozier, righthander Liam Hendriks and first baseman Chris Parmelee. Hitting coach Tom Brunansky, who worked well with Benson and Parmelee (among others) last year at Double-A New Britain, also moves up a level.

In addition, the Twins have loaded up on minor league free agents, such as righthander P.J. Walters, catcher J.R. Towles and outfielders Matt Carson and Wilkin Ramirez. It all adds up to a concerted effort by the Twins to improve their record in Rochester, while at the same time making prospects like Benson ready to contribute in the big leagues.

"We don't have a lot of other changes in our system," Rantz said. "We had to replace Jim Shellenback, who retired as (Rookie-level Elizabethton's) pitching coach, and we moved some coaches. But we really wanted to address Rochester."

More to the point, Rochester wanted to be addressed. Few other minor league cities get such attention.