KANSAS CITY -- The call came Monday while Ron Gardenhire was on the golf course with some of his coaches for the Tigers' off-day. His son, Toby, was phoning.
"I didn't know what he wanted, but he told me he just got the phone call," Gardenhire said.
His son got the call to the big leagues -- not as a player.
He'll be on manager Paul Molitor's staff for a few games as a reward for his work managing Class A Cedar Rapids to a postseason berth in the Midwest League.
That callup, probably not by coincidence, will come during the Twins' visit to Detroit on Sept. 17-19.
"That's the best part and the worst part," Ron Gardenhire said with a laugh, "because there's going to be a lot of [talk] flying. Carol might be rooting for them. And that's really going to bother me. But it's really cool. He's worked a long time."
While Toby grew up around baseball with his dad, following him from the Minor Leagues to Minnesota, he has worked his way up on his own. After a seven-year playing career that peaked at Triple-A Rochester, he entered coaching in the college ranks as the head coach at Division III Wisconsin-Stout for five years. He took his career into pro ball two years ago, then after a year as third-base coach in Rochester last summer, he earned his managerial chance this year at Cedar Rapids. The 35-year-old has made the most of it.
As enthusiastic as Ron Gardenhire has been about managing again in Detroit, he has been just as fired up about his son.
"I just told him to do what you think is right, do what you do best," Gardenhire said. "He's a good teacher. He did in college for five years, so that helped him. He worked with kids, and being down at the lower levels, that's who you're dealing with. …
"He's a good baseball kid. Good for him. It's fun to watch him grow up."
Jimenez insists he's fine
Joe Jimenez's first-half results were strong enough to earn him an All-Star selection in his first full big league season. His second-half stats, by contrast, have been concerning enough to wonder if he's out of gas in his first full Major League season.
His answer, as one would expect, is that he feels fine.
"I don't feel tired," the 23-year-old said. "I don't feel anything like that. I don't feel like I'm throwing too much. I feel good."
The data is mixed. While his average fastball velocity in August (96.39 mph, according to Brooks Baseball and Statcast™) is down nearly a full mile an hour from his peak in June (97.31), it's still higher than his March and April numbers. More interesting might be a rise in his velocity for his secondary pitches, including a changeup just shy of 91 mph. The five-mph gap between his changeup and fastball is by far his smallest this year. His slider velocity is up as well.
Jimenez has given up 12 runs on 11 hits over 8 1/3 innings in his last 10 appearances, essentially alternating scoreless outings with multiple runs allowed since the end of July. In some ways, the struggles are statistically similar to last September.
While Jimenez's 53 1/3 innings are up from last year (45 innings between Detroit, Triple-A Toledo and Class A Advanced Lakeland), the workload is on level with his 2016 season, when he threw 53 2/3 innings over three Minor League levels.
A more intriguing factor could be teams adjusting to Jimenez after seeing him multiple times. Three of Jimenez's four multi-run outings over the past month have come against division opponents, including last Friday's four-run debacle against the White Sox.
"Maybe it's that, because my struggles have been within the division," he said.
Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson have tried to watch how often Jimenez warms up down the stretch, let alone pitches in games, after he ranked among the AL leaders in appearances over the first half. Still, as long as Jimenez is healthy, they want to give him chances to work through his struggles in hopes he'll be better for it in the long run.
"Nothing's going my way," Jimenez said. "I just have to keep working hard and try to figure it out quickly, hopefully before we end the season. Right now, I'm having some struggles, but I'm perfectly fine, healthy, and I'm going to go out there and do my best."
Spring Training schedule released
The Tigers' 2019 Spring Training schedule is out, and includes their first trip to Ft. Myers in a decade. The Tigers will visit the Twins and Red Sox on March 11-12 and the Rays in Port Charlotte on March 15, giving Tigers fans on Florida's west coast a chance to see the club.
The Grapefruit League slate, in turn, features fewer trips to Florida's Atlantic coast than in years past. The Tigers will send a split squad to Jupiter to face the Cardinals on Feb. 25, then visit the Mets in Port St. Lucie the next day. They will not travel to West Palm Beach to face the Astros or Nationals.
The Tigers will open Spring Training with an exhibition game against Southeastern University at Joker Marchant Stadium on Feb. 22, replacing their annual game against Florida Southern. They open Grapefruit League play on Feb. 23 against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. Their first big league game in Lakeland is Feb. 24 against the Phillies at Joker Marchant Stadium.