Terry Ryan's cancer surgery was a success Tuesday, the first step toward getting him back in Rob Antony's car.
Antony is Ryan's assistant, and usually his driver, too, when the Minnesota Twins' front office hits I-75 for road games during spring training. The reason? Major league general managers' phones buzz with texts and emails all day, and Antony is more disciplined than Ryan about keeping his eyes on the road, not the latest message.
"I don't even flinch when my (phone) goes off until I park the car in the lot," he said. "As fast as people drive there, you kidding?"
But Antony may have to turn over the driving to someone else this spring, because he'll be the man that Twins scouts, coaches, managers and executives will be reporting to, sometimes urgently. Antony was named acting general manager, in practice if not in title, when Ryan left the team Monday to undergo treatment for squamous cell cancer, a condition that will keep him sidelined for an unknown duration.
The Twins may learn more about the length of Ryan's absence soon, after surgeons at Mayo Clinic on Tuesday operated on the 60-year-old executive.
The plan was to remove a hard lump, about 1 inch in diameter, that had grown in the lymph nodes in Ryan's neck, a condition diagnosed as squamous cell cancer.
The surgery was a success, a team spokesman said without elaborating, and Ryan is resting in the Rochester, Minn., clinic, where he will remain for another 2-3 days.
Once he returns to the Twin Cities, Ryan and his doctors are expected to decide upon a course of treatment, probably radiation, in which X-ray beams are used to kill cancerous cells and prevent them from recurring.
It's unlikely that chemotherapy would be necessary, Twins team physician Dr. Vijay Eyunni said, because the cancer had not spread from his neck.
It has yet to be determined whether Ryan will attend spring training at all.
"I'm not anticipating it either way. I just want him to get this thing out of there, cure it, and have him come back and be Terry again," said Antony, who has worked with Ryan for much of his 27 years with the Twins.
"I want him to take over and be the same guy who's been running the ship."
Until then, Antony is in charge, though he will have plenty of help -- including that of two former major league general managers, he pointed out.
Bill Smith, who ran the Twins for four seasons between Ryan's two tenures, is a special assistant overseeing the $50 million renovation of the team's Lee County complex, and special assistant and scout Wayne Krivsky was general manager of the Reds from 2006-08. And director of player personnel Mike Radcliff has been with the Twins for three decades.
"Within an hour of Terry telling them (about his cancer), I heard from all three of those guys, saying, 'Hey, whatever you need, I'm here to help,' " said Antony, who was Smith's top assistant, too.
"Obviously there are a lot of important decisions to be made this spring, but we're good at reaching a consensus. We'll discuss it and come to an agreement. Besides, the players make most of the roster decisions for you."
Antony has been mentioned occasionally as a potential future general manager, but he said he isn't thinking of this as a test drive.
"Not at all," he said. "All I'm trying to do is not screw anything up, stay the course, and keep us going forward until Terry is ready to go again."
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