Tigers' Gardenhire keeping it light, loose as trade deadline looms

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Pittsburgh — It’s happened more than once, and it’s funny every time — in a gallows humor sort of way.

Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire will brush past Shane Greene, Nick Castellanos or Matthew Boyd in the clubhouse, or as they are getting on the bus, and he will say, “Are you still here?”

Detroit Tigers' Nick Castellanos (9) is one the names being bandied about on the trade rumor mill.

The trade deadline is 43 days away. Most likely, Greene, Castellanos and possibly Boyd will be wearing another uniform in August. Gardenhire, being in an utterly no-win situation, can only try to keep that reality from weighing on the rest of the clubhouse.

“One thing they have to understand,” Gardenhire said. “The guys that should be worried are the guys no one is interested in. When people care and your name is being thrown around, it ought to flatter you. Just be happy somebody wants you in this game.”

Gardenhire is speaking from personal experience. His phone wasn’t exactly blowing up with offers after he was fired by the Twins in 2014. He ended up taking a job as a special assistant to then general manager Terry Ryan, the man who fired him.

“I don’t think it should be a negative,” he said of the trade rumors. “I don’t think they should worry about it. I think they should be flattered. Somebody else is thinking about you, so you must be OK.”

Truth is, the Tigers’ three most talked about trade pieces aren’t much thinking about it. Castellanos probably has more than the other two, simply because he has been on the market for two years and will be a free agent this off-season.

He talked openly about essentially being a lame-duck player with The News last month.

“I don’t really know how to answer that,” he said. “But it’s uneasy. You do everything you can to not let it affect you. If I am going to say it doesn’t affect me, I’d be lying. I’d be giving you a media answer. The only thing I can control is going out and handling my business for me and take each at-bat the best I can for me.

“And in doing that, I can help the team win.”

Boyd is doing his best to treat the trade talk as white noise.

“There’s really nothing to deal with,” he said before the game Wednesday. “The way I see it, it’s no different than when people say how good you are or when like back in 2015 people were talking about how bad you are.

“It’s just noise. No action needs to be taken. It’s stuff that’s out of my control. No thought needs to go to it until something happens.”

Except, if it happens, it’s a major life-changing event. Either you are going to be separated from your family for the rest of the season or you'll have to uproot your family and move to another city. For Castellanos, the Tigers are the only organization he’s ever known. Boyd and Greene have been here since 2015.

Roots have grown deep for all three.

“Is that the reality (being traded), sure, but I can’t control it,” Greene said. “So there is no point in thinking about it. I want to win. Right now I am a Detroit Tiger, so I want to win as a Detroit Tiger. Whenever that changes, then my mind-set will change.

“There are pros and cons to both situations. All I can do is wake up each day and live in the moment.”

Boyd has taken a more spiritual approach to this. Wherever he ends up by the end of next month — still with the Tigers or traded to another team — will be where he’s supposed to be, where God wants him to be.

“It’s all just a big ‘if,' right now,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Are we going to get this game in tonight? I don’t know, we’ll see at 7 p.m. So you just prepare to play until you don’t and you don’t think of anything outside of that. I am just so grateful to be here wearing the Olde English D.

“It’s where I want to be.”

It’s not an easy line to walk for Gardenhire. Not only is he, trying to keep a clubhouse unified amidst all the possible distractions that come with a looming trade deadline, but his job security is predicated on winning games now.

That becomes more difficult when his best players get shipped out.

“I don’t want to lose any of these guys,” he said. “I love them, they’re all game-on. But when you have good players and you’re doing what we’re doing right now (rebuilding), and we can get back more talent, maybe an impact position player — that’s what is going to happen.

“Al (Avila, general manager) is going to do whatever he has to do to turn this organization into what he believes it’s going to be in a year or two. These guys are just going to have to live with this stuff.”

July return for Mercer?

The Tigers believe, if he stays on his current track, they will have shortstop Jordy Mercer back full time by the first week of July.

“If it keeps going as good as it’s been going, then we will probably get him back for the seven days before the All-Star break,” Gardenhire said.

Mercer, who has served two stints on the injured list with a right quad strain, ran the bases in the dense humidity before the game Wednesday — sprinting from home to first, rounding bases, going home to third, first to third, sudden stops and re-starts, everything. It’s typically the last test a player with a leg injury has to pass before going on a rehab assignment.

Gardenhire said the plan was for Mercer to go through one more rugged workout in Cleveland during the off-day Thursday. If the leg holds up, then they will map out a rehab assignment.

“I need to go play,” Mercer said. “I need to get some games in to get my reaction time back. The game is going be a little fast for a minute.”

Around the horn

Gardenhire has slapped left-handed reliever Nick Ramirez with a new nickname. “We’ve got the Big Ticket,” he said. “We’ve talked about it, we needed a long reliever ever since Daniel Norris got put in the rotation right away. Now we’ve got Healthy Ramirez, the Big Ticket.”

… Barring an emergency, Miguel Cabrera played his last game at first base Tuesday night. The only reason he played there Tuesday was to get his bat into the game with no designated hitter. The Tigers don’t play any more games at National League parks. “You could see around the bag he was mis-stepping,” Gardenhire said. “Wearing that brace, I don’t think that is perfect for him. DHing is the right thing for him. If we want to keep him in the lineup as much as we can, that’s the right way.”

… The Tigers agreed to terms with two more draft picks: Left fielder Bryant Packard (fifth round) and first baseman Cole Zabowski (22nd round) are in the fold. The Tigers have signed 27 of the 40 picks.


Twitter: @cmccosky