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Gardy shows love to Twins before facing ex-club

Gardenhire returns to Minnesota for first time as opposing skipper
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- As Twins manager from 2002-14, Ron Gardenhire led the franchise to six division titles and was in charge as the club moved into Target Field in 2010.

But Monday marked the first time that Gardenhire served as visiting manager at the ballpark, as the first-year Tigers skipper admitted it was a bit strange not parking in his usual spot and being across the field from the home dugout. But he noted it's his second time back, as he also served as D-backs bench coach when they played in Minnesota last year.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- As Twins manager from 2002-14, Ron Gardenhire led the franchise to six division titles and was in charge as the club moved into Target Field in 2010.

But Monday marked the first time that Gardenhire served as visiting manager at the ballpark, as the first-year Tigers skipper admitted it was a bit strange not parking in his usual spot and being across the field from the home dugout. But he noted it's his second time back, as he also served as D-backs bench coach when they played in Minnesota last year.

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"Sitting in this dugout is a little different when you've been on the other side the whole time," Gardenhire said. "It's just like last year coming in here, seeing your friends and all the people that you've worked with, some of the guys I still know from the other team. It's neat coming back."

Gardenhire, who still has a home in the Twin Cities and was able to sleep in his own bed Sunday night, said the Twins will always have a special place in his heart. He played one season in Minnesota's farm system in '87 before becoming a Minor League coach in the organization and moving up to third-base coach from 1991-2001 until he was promoted as manager in '02.

"It's always going to be in your history and in your blood," Gardenhire said. "I love this place. This organization showed me as much respect as you could get as a coach, player and manager. So you know what, I've always loved this place and it'll never go away. But now I have a job to do with my Tigers boys and it's to whip their butts."

Video: DET@MIN: Gardenhire comes back to Minnesota

With the Tigers, Gardenhire is joined by several former Twins coaches such as quality control coach Joe Vavra, bench coach Steve Liddle and bullpen coach Rick Anderson. The roster also has several ex-Twins, including Francisco Liriano, Niko Goodrum and John Hicks.

Twins manager Paul Molitor, who replaced Gardenhire after the '14 season, said he was excited to see so many familiar faces, especially Gardenhire, who served as third-base coach when Molitor played with the Twins from '96-98. Molitor also served under Gardenhire as a coach in '14.

"It was really good to see him today," Molitor said. "I couldn't be more happy that he has got the opportunity over there with the Tigers. He did so much in this community and for this organization. Gave me a chance to get back in the big leagues as a coach in 2014. I can tell by seeing some of the reports and watching some of the highlights that these guys are playing really hard for him, which is not unexpected."

Gardenhire, who said he's roughly 40 pounds lighter than when he managed the Twins, also hasn't lost his sense of humor, joking about how he lost the weight before admitting that his battle with prostate cancer last year forced him to focus on his health.

"I'm making way less than I was making with the Twins. So I don't have as much money. So I can't eat as much," Gardenhire said with a laugh. "But I had the health issue and that's where it went. I had to go ahead and take care of myself when I got away from baseball and all the great food in the clubhouse."

Injury updates

• Right-hander Ervin Santana's scheduled start in extended Spring Training was rained out on Monday, so he'll officially begin his rehab assignment with Double-A Chattanooga on Wednesday instead. Santana, who is on the 60-day disabled list after undergoing surgery to remove a calcium deposit from his right middle finger, is expected to make another rehab start on May 28, when he's eligible to return, and could return to the rotation after that.

• First baseman Joe Mauer, who is on the 10-day DL with a cervical neck strain and concussion-like symptoms, returned to Target Field for treatment on Monday after staying home on Saturday and Sunday. Molitor said Mauer is making progress, noting that his issues with sensitivity to light and balance are "a little bit better."

• Third baseman Miguel Sano, on the DL since May 1 with a left hamstring strain, remains on track to rejoin the Twins for their road trip that begins Friday. He did extra running drills before Triple-A Rochester's game on Monday to test his hamstring. He served as designated hitter Monday night and is scheduled to play third base on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

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