Twins announce Paul Molitor won't return as manager

The Minnesota Twins have relieved Paul Molitor of his duties as manager but hope to keep him with the organization in a different role next season.

Molitor, 62, compiled a 305-343 record over four seasons as manager. The Twins went 78-84 this season and finished 13 games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians after entering spring training with expectations of competing in the American League Central.

"This wasn't about our record this year. This is about what we think is best as we continue to grow a young team in the direction toward being a championship contender," said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey.

"I fully respect that decision," Molitor said in a statement distributed by the team. "I will forever be grateful for the opportunity they gave me to serve in the role as manager for these past four years. I'm going to consider their genuine offer to serve in a different capacity to positively impact the Twins from a different role."

Falvey and other club executives expressed confidence that Molitor would accept the offer and remain with the Twins.

Molitor has two years left on the three-year contract extension he signed with the Twins in October 2017.

Longtime Twins star Joe Mauer told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he was caught off guard by Molitor's departure, adding that the move could affect whether he decides to end his 15-year career and retire.

"There are many factors that will go into my decision going forward," Mauer told the newspaper, "and Paul's absence as our manager is another thing I will be adding to my list of things to consider. He's been an incredible leader and role model and will be greatly missed by all who have played under him."

Molitor, a Minnesota native, was a seven-time All-Star who amassed 3,319 career hits over 21 seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays and the Twins. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame with 85.2 percent of the vote in 2004 in his first appearance on the ballot.

While Molitor had expressed confidence that both he and his staff would return in 2019, team owner Jim Pohlad did not give him a vote of confidence when asked late in the season, saying only that they would meet with chief baseball officer and general manager Thad Levine after the season ended to talk about the future.

"The importance and contribution of Paul Molitor to the Twins, our community and Major League Baseball cannot be diminished," said Pohlad via statement. "On behalf of our family, I offer thanks to Paul for his four years as Twins manager and look forward to the continuation of our relationship with him."

The Twins were one of the surprises of the 2017 season, finishing 85-77 for their highest victory total since they won 94 games in 2010. They made the playoffs as a wild-card team, falling to the Yankees 8-4.

Minnesota couldn't carry any of its momentum from the 2017 regular season into 2018, winning just nine games in April. The offense took a step back, with injuries to Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton part of the problem.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.