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Progress made by Twins in search for relief

GM Ryan keeps narrow focus on bullpen, outfield depth

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Twins finished Day 2 of the Winter Meetings with only the Minor League re-signing of infielder James Beresford to announce, but general manager Terry Ryan said he believes he's making progress toward acquiring relief help.

Ryan said a signing or a trade wasn't imminent or a phone call away, but said he's getting a better feel for what the Twins will need to do to improve their bullpen.

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"I think it was a productive day," Ryan said. "We felt pretty good. We did OK today. But it's not like I have anything ready to announce. But there's a lot of things, whether it's a meeting with an agent or a club, I felt pretty good coming out of today. I have a better feeling how things match up."

Ryan said the Twins have narrowed their focus, as they're essentially only looking for relief help and potentially a fourth outfielder. Ryan said he could sign an outfielder to a Major League deal or could go the Minor League route like they did with Shane Robinson, who was signed to a Minor League deal before the season but spent the entire year as the club's fourth outfielder in 2015. But adding an outfielder is on the backburner, as adding relief help remains the top priority.

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"We're more zeroed in," Ryan said. "This is a unique Winter Meetings for us because we're not branched out too deep. We know what we want, who we're talking to and who fits."

The Twins remain primarily interested in left-handed relievers, as they remain linked to free agents Antonio Bastardo and Tony Sipp. They also checked in on former White Sox lefty Matt Thornton, but he might not be a match, as the Twins are looking for strikeouts and he struck out 23 in 41 1/3 innings with a 2.18 ERA with the Nationals last year. A trade still could be the most likely option. The Twins have never signed a reliever to a multiyear deal, and top relievers on the market such as Bastardo and Sipp are looking for at least a three-year deal.

Ryan added that the chances aren't strong they'll bring back free-agent relievers Brian Duensing and Blaine Boyer even though they still have interest in bringing back fellow free agent Neal Cotts. Ryan spoke highly of Duensing, who has been a part of the organization since 2005, and said he talked to him recently about Byung Ho Park wearing his No. 52 next year.

"We know what he's done for us not only on the field but in the community," Ryan said. "I have a lot of respect for him and I also have a lot of pride in what he did accomplish. … He's had a nice run here."

Ryan also indicated the Twins aren't likely to sign any reclamation pitching projects this offseason, which rules out a reunion with Johan Santana, who is looking to make a comeback after being out of the Majors since 2012.

"I've been interested in those over the years and some have worked, but many have not, so I'd be less aggressive about that," Ryan said. "We have quantity. One of the dangers of those things is you don't want to shut off an avenue for a guy who is about ready to emerge."

Santana was famously acquired by the Twins via the Rule 5 Draft, but Ryan also indicated the Twins are likely to pass on making a selection on Thursday. It's a rare move for the Twins, who have made a selection in seven of the last 10 Rule 5 Drafts, selecting pitchers in recent years such as Scott Diamond, Ryan Pressly and J.R. Graham. Minnesota's 40-man roster is currently full.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.
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