Orlando, Fla. — It was set on a tee. There was no way Ron Gardenhire wasn’t going to knock it out of the park.
During his press conference Wednesday, he was asked about serving as the bench coach in Arizona last season under Torey Lovullo, who wound up being named Manager of the Year in the National League.
“I taught him pretty well, didn’t I?” Gardenhire said with an impish grin.
Although Gardenhire was joking — he’s far to humble a person to take any credit for the Diamondbacks success last year — Lovullo didn’t dispute it.
“He's a special man because of his track record as a manager,” said Lovullo, who played for the Tigers under Sparky Anderson. “He's won over a thousand games, and that all speaks for itself. But he's a kind, compassionate man that helped me grow up in my first year of being a manager.
“I can never thank him enough for what he brought to me day in and day out.”
Gardenhire would blush and ask him where he should send the check.
“It was the wisdom,” Lovullo continued. “It was the insight that he was able to share on a daily basis. It was the calm demeanor in which he delivered a lot of really, really important messages.
“I feel like I was lucky to have him sitting next to me for most of the season last year.”
Gardenhire feels like the lucky one. He’d been fired by the Twins after the 2014 season and he was off the field for two years before Lovullo asked him to come aboard. Gardenhire’s weight had ballooned over 270 pounds and, soon after he accepted Lovullo’s offer, he was diagnosed with prostrate cancer.
“They took care of me out there,” Gardenhire said of the Diamondbacks. “I went through some health problems. From Torey out there, the whole coaching staff, I had a blast. It kind of rejuvenated my zest.
“I watched those guys do it, and Torey was a big part of it. He was a great baseball guy.”
Through working with the Diamondbacks, Gardenhire not only rekindled his competitive fire, he also gained an appreciation for the utility of some of the new-age data — which he hadn’t exactly bought into in his days with the Twins.
“Torey is a great communicator, a real baseball guy,” Gardenhire said. “I enjoyed watching him go out almost on a daily basis through the outfield, reaching out to everybody and getting to know families (which is something Gardenhire has always done).
“That's not even talking about how great he was in the dugout. Running a ball game, talking about the game. His knowledge of the game was unbelievable. You know what, I thought that was a lot of fun to watch. I thank that whole organization for giving me an opportunity to get back in the dugout.”
Father and son
Gardenhire’s son, 34-year-old Toby Gardenhire, is the first-year manager of the Twins Class A affiliate in Cedar Rapids. He was the former head coach at Division III Wisconsin-Stout and had been the hitting coach at Cedar Rapids the previous season.
“Good, let him get booed for a change," joked the senior Gardenhire. “No, good luck to him. He'll lose his hair like I did. But he's a good baseball guy. He's grown up in baseball his whole life. He'll do fine.
“He's a good teacher, good with young guys. Toby will be fine.”
Asked if his son has asked him for much advice, Gardenhire shook his head no.
“I don't really tell him too much other than trust the players, treat the players with respect, and when you have to step on them a little bit, make sure you pat them on the back afterwards,” he said.
Gardenhire was also asked if Toby had shown an aptitude for managing when he was a kid.
“Toby second-guessed me just like you (media) did,” he said, the room breaking up in laughter. “It's all good.”
Former Tiger Anthony Gose, 27, whom they released in October, was taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Astros, who intend to use him as a pitcher. The Tigers began to transition him from outfield to pitcher last season before he injured his elbow.
The Astros must keep Gose on their big-league roster all season or he can be offered back to the Rangers, who signed him early this offseason.