'Great memories there': Gardenhire ready for Minnesota homecoming

David Krueger
Special to The Detroit News
Ron Gardenhire

Seattle — The next stop on the Tigers’ seven-game road trip will be a familiar one for Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire.

The Tigers head to Minnesota to face the Twins in a three-game series against the team Gardenhire coached for 13 years and won over 1,000 games with. Gardenhire is the winningest manager in Twins history and led Minnesota to six postseason appearances from 2002-14. He was named the Baseball Writers Association of America American League Manager of the Year with the Twins in 2010.

“You have great memories there,” Gardenhire said. “You’re going back to where you spent a long time and everybody knows how that feels. You just go there and you go through it — the emotion part. We’ve got a job to do. I’m going in there with a new ball club and we’re going to go in there and try to figure out how to beat those guys. That’s where all my emotions are going to be.

“The emotional part is seeing all my friends that work there in the offices. All the people upstairs that I traveled with. That’s the emotional part.”

Gardenhire returned to Minnesota last year as a bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was asked to take part in a few events during the team’s Hall of Fame weekend, including catching a ceremonial first pitch from his former player, outfielder Michael Cuddyer.

Gardenhire said he was received well by the fans last year, but isn’t sure how things are going to go this time around now that he’s managing the visiting team.

“Most of (the cheering came from) my family,” Gardenhire said with a laugh. “They’re very good fans there. Very respectful. … I don’t really know what to expect. I haven’t paid much attention to it, to tell you the truth. We’ve got our own thing going on.”

The Tigers will try to end a three-game losing streak on Monday at a place their manager has had a lot of success, historically.

“You want to play in this league, you’ve got to get back up and you’ve got to go at a new team, which is a very good baseball team in Minnesota,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to try to win.”

Hardy to get second spot start

Left-hander Blaine Hardy will make the second start of his career on Monday at Minnesota. Hardy (0-0) has a 3.38 ERA in five appearances with Detroit this season. He pitched in relief on Thursday against Seattle after making his first career start against the Mariners in Detroit last Sunday. In that game, he allowed two runs and eight hits and struck out three in 4 1/3 innings.

“He did well the last time,” Gardenhire said. “He knows how to change speeds, suspend the ball, and move the ball in and out. If he’ll do that again, he’ll give us a chance. He’ll keep us in the ballgame. He did that very well last time. I thought he did a really nice job.”

Prior to his promotion to the Tigers on May 4, Hardy was 3-0 at Triple-A Toledo with a 0.74 ERA and 30 strikeouts. He was leading the International League in ERA, with a 0.62 WHIP and a .136 opponents batting average at the time of his promotion.

Hardy will go against right hander Jose Berrios (4-4, 4.05 ERA). Detroit left-hander Matthew Boyd (2-3, 3.19) is set to start on Tuesday against Minnesota right-hander Lance Lynn (1-4, 7.47) and Michael Fulmer (1-3, 4.35) will close the series out for the Tigers against right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-2, 3.96).

Tigers on the mend

Gardenhire provided injury updates on several injured Tigers prior to Sunday’s game, including first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 4 with a right hamstring strain.

Cabrera took batting practice on Saturday and told Gardenhire he felt good afterward. The Detroit manager said now the team has to wait to see how Cabrera feels as he recovers from the workload.

“The big key is … how he comes back (Sunday) after taking all of those swings,” Gardenhire said. “(Sunday) would normally be a back-off day.”

Gardenhire wouldn’t commit to Cabrera being ready for the Minnesota series and said he still needs to show he can run the bases and take infield practice. He fielded “10 or 15 ground balls” on Saturday, Gardenhire said, but still has some work to do before he returns from the DL.

“There’s things he has to get done,” Gardenhire said, “to prove to himself, and everybody else, that he can really get out there and play in a game and dive around and all those things.”

News on starting pitcher Jordan Zimmerman was a bit more optimistic. Gardenhire said the right hander is feeling good after landing on the 10-day disabled list with a right shoulder impingement on May 8. The goal is to have Zimmerman throw a couple more bullpen sessions and then get out for a rehab start.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Zimmerman said. “They have the schedule written up and I just come here and do what I’m told and do my throwing and do everything I can to get ready. My arm feels great right now.”

Gardenhire also discussed the progress of right-handed pitcher Alex Wilson. Wilson has been on the 10-day DL since May 8 with a left plantar fascia strain. The reliever has looked strong pitching, but has struggled when he has to move quickly off the mound.

“He’s doing fine,” Gardenhire said. “... Throwing bullpens, pitching, all of those things are fine. But moving forward to field the bunt, or moving off the mound, getting those first steps, is not good yet. He’s getting better every day but he’s still got a few days to go, here, before he’s going to be able to go forward.”

Cabrera ready to move on

Cabrera was the subject of comments made late in the week by former Miami Marlins president and current CBS Sports HQ analyst David Sampson about the star first baseman wanting to leave Detroit and return to Miami, where the veteran began his career, should the situation present itself.

“What I feel badly about is that he’s stuck in Detroit,” Samson said last week. “He always wanted to come back to Miami. Every time I’d see him, over the years, at All-Star games, [he would say], ‘Hey, I’m ready to come home.’ And we just didn’t have the payroll capacity.”

Cabrera issued a statement through a team spokesman on Friday and the spokesman reiterated that statement on Sunday: “I was joking with him and he knows that. I am focused on getting back out on the field and helping my team here win. That is my focus.”

The spokesman said that Cabrera was not expected to address the matter further.

Around the horn

Victor Martinez was supposed to be given a routine day off Sunday and was held out of the starting lineup. Gardenhire said the 39-year-old veteran has talked to him in the past about day games being the hardest on him. Martinez came into the game as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning and hit a single off Seattle reliever Edwin Diaz.

… Second baseman Niko Goodrun saw his career-best, eight-game hitting streak end Sunday when he went 0 for 5. Goodrum hit .400 with seven runs scored and three home runs during the streak.

David Krueger is a freelance writer.