LAKELAND, Fla. -- The first Spring Training of the Ron Gardenhire era as Tigers manager is about to begin. So, too, is the first Spring Training of the Tigers' rebuild.While a handful of pitchers have been making their way to Tigertown over the past couple weeks to pick up their
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The first Spring Training of the Ron Gardenhire era as Tigers manager is about to begin. So, too, is the first Spring Training of the Tigers' rebuild.
While a handful of pitchers have been making their way to Tigertown over the past couple weeks to pick up their personal throwing programs, all pitchers and catchers officially report to Spring Training on Tuesday. Their first workout will take place Wednesday morning on the back fields of the Tigers' Spring Training complex, followed by the first full-squad workout next Monday. The team begins game action on Thursday, Feb. 22, with the Tigers' annual exhibition against nearby Florida Southern College.
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It's a new era of Tigers baseball in more ways than one. Gone are many of the familiar veterans, some of them traded in the last several months, dealt away for prospects who, in many cases, will be making their first camp appearance. It's a generational shift for the Tigers under general manager Al Avila and, in turn, Gardenhire, who finally gets a look at the roster he'll manage this year after taking the job last October.
Gardenhire saw many Tigers veterans from the other dugout during his previous managerial tenure in Minnesota, but he wants to see them up close before deciding anything, from batting orders to pitching rotations to bullpen roles. That makes Spring Training big for him; it's not just about getting ready, but also getting acquainted.
"It's about getting a feel for who they are and what they do and just watching them do their thing," Gardenhire said. "There's some talented people here, and that's good. But I want to get on the field and put my eyes on them and shake their hands and watch them run and throw the ball and all that. That's when I'll know what I have here."
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Like nearly every new manager, Gardenhire wants to emphasize fundamentals, using Spring Training to instill an emphasis on playing the game the right way. That's nothing new. What will be new, at least in Tigers camp, is instilling a certain mentality. While the Tigers are focused on the long term as an organization, Gardenhire doesn't want his players wasting the short term. He wants them to expect to win, rebuild or not. That process begins in earnest this week as players take the field as a group for the first time.
"Obviously we made a lot of moves. We moved some people around, and I know there's some uneasiness here, but there's also some hope," Gardenhire said. "That's what baseball brings, that's what spring brings: hope. You never know what's going to happen. I've seen all kinds of crazy things in this game. You know what, we've got talent. We've got some good talent. We've got some veteran leadership. If we can keep healthy and all those things, we can have a lot of fun.
"This is a learning game, and that's what we're all going to do together. Grow with each other and learn with each other and make these guys enjoy coming to the ballpark and our fans enjoy watching these guys play."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.