Nieto, 50, guided the Red Wings to a 102-186 (.354) record over the last two seasons, as the club went 53-91 in 2011 to mark the first time Rochester posted back-to-back 90-loss seasons since 1903-04. Rayford, 54, spent the last two seasons as Rochester's hitting coach, and had been with the organization for the last seven seasons
"The Minnesota Twins organization would like to thank both Tom and Floyd for their contributions," said Twins Minor League director Jim Rantz. "These changes in Rochester are just part of an overall directional change that is being implemented throughout the Minor League system this offseason."
Twins general manager Bill Smith pointed out the changes were made because of Rochester's struggles, and not because of any struggles by young players at the Major League level.
"It's a reaction to the struggles of that club on the field," Smith said. "It's not that some of the guys who come up have had some defensive lapses or baserunning lapses. This is not saying this is their fault. They have to start learning this in rookie ball and adapt and learn the nuances of the game as they come up in the system. It's not just that they didn't learn it in Triple-A."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said it was tough hearing the news of the firings, especially considering the fact that Minnesota recalled so many players from Rochester this year, utilizing the disabled list 24 times.
"It's not ever fun," Gardenhire said. "They're good people, and both of them were ex-big league baseball players who had been through lots of ups and downs. As they say, somebody has to take the fall for some rough times through our Minor League system at the top level. We've beat the fire out of them and taken their opportunities because we've been taking all their players. So I feel for Tom and Floyd."
Center fielder Ben Revere, who hit .302 in 32 games with the Red Wings this year, agreed it was difficult hearing about Nieto and Rayford.
"It's tough because you hate to see somebody lose their job," Revere said. "But it's a business. Hopefully they'll find other jobs somewhere else. I wish the best to them."
The Twins also announced the rest of Rochester's staff is expected to return in '12, including pitching coach Bobby Cuellar. The Twins will begin their search process for a new manager and hitting coach immediately.
Additionally, rookie-level Class A Elizabethton pitching coach Jim Shellenback, who also helped instruct players during extended Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla., is set to retire.
"He's been in the organization for 32 years as a player and coach," Smith said. "He managed a little bit. He's been everywhere. He's always been one of those guys who would do whatever we needed."