The seats at Target Field were empty as Gardenhire talked with reporters in the visitors' dugout Monday afternoon. After 13 years as Twins manager, though, he still had no shortage of familiar faces around him.
"It's always going to be in your history and in your blood," Gardenhire said. "I have a house here. I live here. I love this place. This organization showed me as much as 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. That's not going to change. But this place, I have a lot of history here and a lot of great friends."
This is not Gardenhire's first trip back to the Twin Cities in an opposing uniform. He was here last summer as Diamondbacks bench coach and received a warm reception from fans. This is a little different. He's not just managing again, he's doing so with a division rival.
Gardenhire became a hero in Minnesota in part because his Twins teams tormented the often-favored Tigers for years. Now he's in charge of teaching the Tigers to compete, including against his resurgent former club.
"Sitting in this dugout is a little different when you've been on the other side the whole time," he said.
In some ways, he's trying to establish the same mentality he had to instill with the Twins during his early years managing that young club. In other ways, between analytics and other trends, it's a different job.
Asked if he manages differently now than he did when he started here, however, the one-liner was quick.
"You can second-guess me and let me know," he chuckled. "Just check me out during the game. Go ahead. Been there before. We're just having fun, relaxed, doing the same thing I've always done, being myself. Honest with the players and being up front with the players, telling them exactly what I expect from them. Give a nine-inning effort every day. I'm not going to yell at them when we screw up on the basepaths trying to do something aggressive. We've talked about it.
"You might see us do some crazy things and some good things. But it's baseball. I want them to play. That hasn't changed a bit."
Boyd credits Morris
While Gardenhire was catching up with the Minnesota media, Matthew Boyd was at the other end of the dugout, catching up with Hall of Fame inductee and Twins broadcaster Jack Morris. The two had a long conversation when they attended a Detroit Red Wings game together in January, when they were both in Detroit for TigerFest and the Winter Caravan.
Boyd has credited that conversation with helping him going into what has become a promising season for him.
"I learned a ton," Boyd said. "It was a night I'll never forget, and it was really generous of him just to hang out and talk with me and share his perspective on the game and how he went about his business, what brought him success. Obviously, his mentality was what separated him and really put him in an echelon above the rest, along with the splitter."
Since then, Boyd has noted how similar Morris' ideas are to what Tigers pitching coach Chris Bosio has been preaching to the club in his first year on the job.
Boyd, who starts Tuesday against the Twins, is not the first Tigers pitcher to benefit from Morris' teachings. When Morris was part of the broadcast team on some Tigers telecasts in 2003, he talked frequently with Jeremy Bonderman, then a 20-year-old rookie in Detroit's rotation.
"I'm just grateful," Boyd said. "He was an enforcer on the mound. He was in charge. He had a plan and knew exactly what he wanted to do, and he was fearless out there. A lot of valuable lessons I learned just from hanging out at a Red Wings game."
• Miguel Cabrera, currently on the 10-day DL with a strained right hamstring, took a few rounds of batting practice with the team before Monday's game, and is scheduled for a more extensive session of early batting practice Tuesday. He still has to run bases and do agility work.
"He's actually feeling really, really good, taking a lot of swings," Gardenhire said. "Just let him go day by day."
• Jordan Zimmermann (shoulder impingement) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday. He'll have two or three bullpen sessions, Gardenhire said, before going on a Minor League rehab assignment that could last three starts.
"[Bosio] has a program that he's used for a long time, and that's what we're going to go with," Gardenhire said. "But he's feeling great. He's champing [at the bit] right now."
• Alex Wilson (ruptured left plantar fascia) ran on the field Monday afternoon and has a bullpen session scheduled for Tuesday.
"I could pitch right now," Wilson said. "I just can't move, can't cover first. I can actually pitch; I just can't field my position, which is unfortunately a big part of it."
• Jeimer Candelario (left wrist tendinitis) could begin a rehab assignment soon.
"He's smiling really big," Gardenhire said. "He's feeling really good. We have to decide whether we want to send him down and let him get some at-bats. The smart thing might be to let him get some [game] action, rather than just BP, and take a few swings before we activate him."