The bones in Ron Gardenhire’s body tell him it’s time for baseball season, time for him to be in a dugout checking lineups and planning for matchups.
His wife might be telling him the same thing, just in a more subtle fashion.
“My wife can only take so much of me,” Gardenhire said on a Wednesday morning conference call with reporters. “I need to get back on the baseball field.”
That can’t happen right now, of course. With baseball on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gardenhire and his wife are at their winter home in Fort Myers, Fla., where he drove shortly after MLB suspended Spring Training. Their grandchildren are with them, as is their son, Toby, a manager in the Twins' farm system.
As more and more places close across Florida, Gardenhire is left more and more at home. And as what would’ve been Opening Day approaches, Gardenhire is feeling the awkwardness of being at home.
“I've been in baseball 40 years, and the only time I've sat around like this is when I got fired,” Gardenhire said, referring to his previous managerial tenure in Minnesota. “I got fired by the Twins [after the 2014 season], and I'd never done nothing during baseball season. …
“Tomorrow's Opening Day, and it's weird. It's been weird since that day in the dugout [the last day of Spring Training] when the security guy showed me his phone [with news of the suspension of Spring Training] and we still had three innings to go.”
There was a feeling in the park that day that those innings could be the last baseball for a long time, though nobody knew how long it would be then and they still don’t know now. These are unprecedented times, Gardenhire said, and the focus needs to be on everyone’s well-being. And rather than focus on the games lost, he’s looking forward to the day when the games return and the passion that will come with it.
“Baseball's been going on forever,” Gardenhire said. “And as long as I've been in baseball, believe me, I've heard the passion when I’ve gone to the mound to make a pitching move. It's going to be exciting when we get back. I think everybody misses the heck out of baseball right now like I do. It's going to be like a party.”
Good advice from Jonathan Schoop.#TogetherDetroit pic.twitter.com/RJF0NdtTAb
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) March 23, 2020
And no, he doesn’t know what the lineup is going to be for that day yet, though he was working through batting orders when Spring Training shut down two weeks ago.
“I just know [Miguel] Cabrera was going to hit third, and we'd go from there,” Gardenhire said. “We had [Cameron] Maybin leading off because analytically he gets on base. I was having fun with the lineup because I actually had some veteran hitters you could place around and it looked like the ball was going to be flying.”
Eventually, it will be.
Here are some other notes from the Tigers' manager:
• While just a skeleton crew remains at the Tigers’ Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla., a far cry from the near-full roster there a week and a half ago, Michael Fulmer remains there as he rehabs his surgically repaired right elbow. His initial timetable projected him to potentially rejoin the Tigers around midseason, maybe July, but Gardenhire didn’t want to speculate whether a delayed season might allow him more games.
“He's feeling great and doing great,” Gardenhire said. “As far as a timetable, I don't think anybody knows. All we can do is continue this process.”
• Gardenhire said players in Detroit will be able to work out at Comerica Park. Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris have said in recent days that they’re leaving Lakeland and heading to Detroit, having lined up housing for the season before the coronavirus pandemic delayed the start.
• Pitching coach Rick Anderson stayed in Lakeland after Spring Training was suspended, and he remains in touch with Tigers pitchers on workout programs.
“He's talked with all the pitchers, or most of them, about not trying to do too awful much and staying in shape,” Gardenhire said. “It's kind of like the offseason where guys go their separate ways. They're already heated up to go five or six innings and now you back off a bit.”