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Anderson says Tigers will use 5-man rotation

New pitching coach discusses strategic change; Gardenhire juggles lineup for Thursday's finale
MLB.com

DETROIT -- New pitching coach Rick Anderson talked in the Tigers' dugout Thursday morning before they capped their four-game series against the A's. He shed light on a tweak to the way the starting rotation will work, what his approach will be in this role and why he accepted the job.

After toying with a six-man rotation, Anderson confirmed that Detroit will go back to a five-man rotation by sending left-hander Blaine Hardy back to the bullpen. Hardy moved into the rotation in the middle of May when the Tigers were dealing with injuries. Former pitching coach Chris Bosio, who was dismissed Wednesday for making insensitive comments to an employee, kept Hardy in the rotation temporarily as a sixth starter.

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DETROIT -- New pitching coach Rick Anderson talked in the Tigers' dugout Thursday morning before they capped their four-game series against the A's. He shed light on a tweak to the way the starting rotation will work, what his approach will be in this role and why he accepted the job.

After toying with a six-man rotation, Anderson confirmed that Detroit will go back to a five-man rotation by sending left-hander Blaine Hardy back to the bullpen. Hardy moved into the rotation in the middle of May when the Tigers were dealing with injuries. Former pitching coach Chris Bosio, who was dismissed Wednesday for making insensitive comments to an employee, kept Hardy in the rotation temporarily as a sixth starter.

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"I understand what was going on with that," Anderson said. "I talked to one of the starters about going back to it, and they welcomed it."

Anderson said the biggest benefit that comes with the more orthodox five-man rotation is that all the pitchers know what their schedule looks like from one start to the next and can get comfortable with it.

Anderson's most immediate task will be getting starting pitchers to go deeper into games, like what Mike Fiers did Wednesday night, when he pitched seven innings in a 3-0 loss to the A's. Anderson said the best way to get those starts from his pitchers is to pound the strike zone to avoid issuing too many walks.

"We have to get back to attacking the strike zone," Anderson said. "Don't be so fine with your pitches. We've seen so many three-ball counts; you can't survive like that."

Working to Anderson's advantage through this transition is his history with manager Ron Gardenhire. Anderson served as Gardenhire's pitching coach with the Twins from 2002-14.

"That's kind of the fun of getting back into it," Anderson said. "When you asked if I had any reservations, no, because I've worked with Gardy for so long."

Now, after initially not being interested in the pitching coach job before the season, Anderson said he would be open to keeping the job after this season. Aside from the working relationship he has with Gardenhire, Anderson pointed to the future of the organization, especially on the mound, as a reason to be excited about the job.

"It's kind of exciting to see what we've got coming through," Anderson said, seemingly referring to prospects like Alex Faedo (Double-A Erie) and recent top overall pick Casey Mize. "You've got a lot of good ones coming. This organization is doing good things of rebuilding, trying to build the system and bring guys up. It's exciting."

Around the horn
• Anyone looking at the Tigers' lineup on Thursday may have been surprised to see Victor Martinez batting fifth, Jose Iglesias batting second and Jeimer Candelario batting leadoff, among other oddities. Gardenhire said he's trying to "change the pace."

"Eight losses in a row will definitely break the mojo," Gardenhire said. "We want to get out of this thing."

• Gardenhire said part of the Tigers' evolution will need to include better timely hitting, especially early in the game.

"[We need to] understand the importance of picking up an early run by just hitting a ground ball to second base with a man on third and cutting down on the strikeouts in those situations," Gardenhire said.

After Wednesday's game, bench coach Steve Liddle, speaking for the ejected Gardenhire, said he thinks the younger hitters are trying to do too much in those potential RBI situations.

Tyler Fenwick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.

Detroit Tigers