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The two managers of the year both have close ties to new Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, and describe him as a man who'll work hard to the very last day of the season regardless of record, as well as a man who has begun to embrace new-age analytics.

Twins manager Paul Molitor, the American League manager of the year, has known Gardenhire for several years going back to his playing days, while Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, the National League manager of the year, had Gardenhire as his bench coach during Arizona's breakout 2017 season.

Lovullo called Gardenhire's expertise "invaluable.

"First of all, with Gardy sitting by my side, I couldn't have picked a better candidate or had a better candidate, with 1,000 wins sitting next to me," Lovullo said. "As a first-year manager, and I had somebody who would either confirm some of the things I was thinking or tell me, 'Hey, not so fast, slow down, slow down, young fella.'

"That interaction and that time I could spend with him talking baseball and going over things was invaluable for me."

Gardenhire, 60, last month was named Tigers manager, replacing outgoing Brad Ausmus.

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The news caught many Tigers fans by surprise, given general manager Al Avila's professed interest in moving the franchise into the 21st century of sabermetrics and analytics.

Gardenhire, meanwhile, has an "old-school" reputation, from his days as Twins manager, from 2002-14. Avila defended the hire, saying you can teach an old dog new tricks, so to speak. Avila pointed out all managers are former players, and all of them have to learn the analytics side of the game at some point.

Lovullo, who embraces that side of the game, endorsed Gardenhire's analytics education. In Detroit, Gardenhire is expected to work closely with the Tigers' eight-person analytics staff — a department that has cost the organization $2 million, and is expected to cost substantially more as the Tigers catch up to the rest of the league.

"He was involved and engaged in learning, and always asking questions and understanding that," said Lovullo, 52, a former Tigers player whose Diamondbacks were 93-69 and won a wild card in 2017. "A lot of the things that were being talked about and how they played out were overlapping with how we would feel as a group. He learned.

"I'm so happy for Ron."
Gardenhire's long coaching and managerial career has been mostly tied to the Twins, where he was a disciple of longtime manager Tom Kelly, before getting the managerial job in 2002.

Molitor was a candidate in 2002, but wasn't overly interested, given the Twins were being discussed as a contraction candidate by MLB.

He eventually joined the staff in Seattle before returning to Minnesota in 2005 and working in a variety of roles until 2013. Prior to the 2014 season, Gardenhire added him to the major-league staff to work in a variety of areas, including baserunning, infield instruction and defensive positioning.

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When Gardenhire was fired following a fourth straight losing season in 2014, Molitor got the job — and just took the Twins to the postseason for the first time since 2010.

"I've been around Gardy for a really long time. Twenty years ago, he was one of my coaches and, you know, obviously I saw him grow under T.K., until he got his opportunity and he ran with it," Molitor said of Gardenhire, who was the last Twins manager of the year, for 2010. "He connected to players, he's a diligent worker, he sees the big picture, knows how to challenge players.

"He graciously gave me an opportunity to be one of his coaches, and I watched his style. I watched him, and though that one year we didn't have a particularly good year, how he grinded his way to the very last day. I was impressed by that — no matter the circumstances, he tried to do whatever he could from Day 1 to the last day."

That should be music to the Tigers' ears, given Gardenhire has a tall task in front of him in Detroit — which is in full rebuild mode, after being a big-time spender and World Series contender from 2006 through last summer, when they dumped salary and big names by shipping out Justin Verlander, Justin Upton and others.

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The Opening Day roster in 2018 is likely to be among the youngest and greenest Tigers fans have seen since the early 2000s, and Vegas has them as the longest-shot to win the 2018 World Series.

Gardenhire received a three-year contract with the Tigers, the same number of years Avila has left on his contract.

It's debatable that the Tigers can turn things around that quickly.

"I'm excited for him to get this opportunity in Detroit, I'll tell you that," said Molitor, 61, who led the Twins to an 85-77 record and a wild card. "It'll be fun to have a chance to compete against him."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984

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