Last-place Twins fire GM Terry Ryan, will bring back Paul Molitor

Why did the Twins fire Terry Ryan? (0:52)

Pedro Gomez explains the Twins' decision to fire general manager Terry Ryan. (0:52)

It was a surprising day of upheaval for the Minnesota Twins, but manager Paul Molitor is staying put despite the firing of general manager Terry Ryan.

Molitor said he was informed Sunday by team ownership that the Twins would like him to remain as manager for the 2017 season.

"I'm grateful because I want to keep doing it," Molitor said before the Twins' series opener against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. "I want to be part of the solution of the team doing better."

Molitor addressed the team Monday afternoon after news of Ryan's dismissal broke. Molitor said he wanted to honor the longtime executive and take a moment to acknowledge his contributions to the organization, calling Ryan's departure "a personal loss."

The Twins entered the day with the worst record in the American League at 33-58, 21 games out of first place in the AL Central Division. Only Atlanta (32-60) has a worse record in the majors.

Assistant GM Rob Antony will replace Ryan on an interim basis. Owner and CEO Jim Pohlad referred to Ryan's firing as "difficult, painful and not obvious" in a statement released earlier Monday by the team.

Longtime Twins star Joe Mauer said it was a difficult day.

"There's a lot of people hurting in here today," Mauer said. "[Ryan has] had a hand in why everybody is in this room. I've known him for a long time.

"It's a tough day, but we have a long way to go and we still have a lot of things to play for and prove and that's what we're going to try to do moving forward."

Molitor helped the Twins become one of the surprise teams of last year, keeping them in the playoff hunt into the final week of the season. But the Twins are on pace for 100 losses this year.

"Terry has been a gifted leader of the baseball department for over eighteen seasons," Pohlad said in a news release. "It is impossible to overstate his contribution to our game, our team and the Upper Midwest baseball community. The decision to part ways with Terry was difficult, painful and not obvious."

Ryan spent two stints as general manager of the Twins, helping the franchise emerge from a decade worth of futility to become one of the models for small-market success in the early 2000s. He helped build one of baseball's strongest farm systems and made several shrewd trades that turned the Twins into a team that won four AL Central championships in five seasons.

Ryan stepped down in 2007 but returned in 2011 after hand-picked successor Bill Smith could not continue the team's success.

The Twins are in the middle of their fifth losing season in the last six years. A 2015 season that saw them return to contention in the division proved not to be enough when the team sank to the bottom of the American League this summer.

Ryan handed out big money to pitchers Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes in an effort to address the team's biggest weakness in the starting rotation, but all have been disappointments.

The decisions to sign South Korean slugger Byung Ho Park, hold on to veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe this offseason and move promising youngster Miguel Sano from third base to right field all proved to be ill-fated. Sano was injured while playing in the outfield and is back at third base, Plouffe is on the disabled list and his trade value has been diminished and Park has been sent to Triple-A to try to ease his transition from Korea to the United States.

Despite the Twins' massive struggles, the midseason firing is a highly uncharacteristic by the Pohlad family, long known in baseball circles for loyalty and continuity. Jim Pohlad has made no secret of his admiration for Ryan, saying as late as last year that the GM could hold his post for as long as he wanted.

"While disappointed we were unable to bring Minnesota a third World Championship, I leave the GM post with immense pride in being part of the Twins organization for the better part of three decades," Ryan said in the team's news release.

"I'm grateful for the leadership opportunities provided by the Pohlad family; the collaboration and talents of my colleagues in the front office; the hard work and dedication of our manager, coaches and clubhouse personnel; the commitment and professionalism of our players; the passion and attention to detail of our minor league staff and scouts; and most importantly, the incredible support of our fans. It's been an honor to be part of the Twins organization and I wish everyone nothing but the best going forward."

Antony is in his 29th season in the Twins organization and his ninth as an assistant GM.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.