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Gardy looking to make strategic impact on Tigers

Manager may look to bunt more; Zimmermann to get time off around All-Star break
MLB.com @beckjason

ST. PETERSBURG -- Ronny Rodriguez took a couple of steps back at third base Monday night and immediately caught the coaches' notice. They had warned him about the bunt threat Carlos Gomez presented, and they wanted Rodriguez playing in.

Infield coach Ramon Santiago whistled from the dugout, but Rodriguez didn't notice. Gomez did, and put a bunt single on the soft turf of Tropicana Field to bring in a run in the seventh inning.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Ronny Rodriguez took a couple of steps back at third base Monday night and immediately caught the coaches' notice. They had warned him about the bunt threat Carlos Gomez presented, and they wanted Rodriguez playing in.

Infield coach Ramon Santiago whistled from the dugout, but Rodriguez didn't notice. Gomez did, and put a bunt single on the soft turf of Tropicana Field to bring in a run in the seventh inning.

View Full Game Coverage

"We should make that play," Gardenhire lamented. "We should have an out somewhere -- home, first, wherever. We should have an out, and we didn't, and that's because he backed up."

Video: DET@TB: Gomez bunts home go-ahead run in 7th inning

Gardenhire knew how important the bunt is in Gomez's offensive repertoire, because Gardenhire managed Gomez in Minnesota. The bunt was an important part of Gardenhire's offense for most of his tenure with the Twins. He wouldn't mind making it a bigger part of the Tigers' offense, but he's fighting history in Detroit and trends elsewhere.

"My teams always did that," Gardenhire said. "We worked on it all the time, because it was part of our arsenal. I don't think that's been part of the arsenal in Detroit for a long time, because they were bash brothers. They always had a team here in Detroit that killed the ball. A few guys bunted, so maybe it's something that we've got to learn with personnel. I think our personnel's going to be a continuing, changing thing, the way I was told, so watch it and see if we can do it."

The Tigers have already presented more of a threat to bunt than in past years. They beat the Rays in a May 2 game at Comerica Park when slugging first baseman John Hicks put down a safety squeeze to score JaCoby Jones in the 12th inning.

Video: TB@DET: Hicks walks it off with a squeeze in the 12th

Detroit's 11 bunt hits ranked fourth among 15 American League teams entering play Tuesday, as did their 39.3 percent of bunts going for hits. By contrast, their three bunt hits and 13.6 bunt-hit percentage in 2017 ranked last. They're on their best bunt pace since 2015, when they had 22 bunt hits. Their seven sacrifice bunts this season rank ninth in the AL.

The Rays are just ahead of the Tigers in bunt hits this season. But as Gardenhire pointed out, there's more history of it here.

"That's what they do," Gardenhire said. "Not just to us -- they do that to everybody. It's just certain teams, that's the way they play, and certain players. Most of the time, it's part of their game: drag bunts, push bunts. It's a way to play the game. It's been here forever in Tampa. When Joe Maddon was here, that was their play: First and third, [Sean] Rodriguez up, push bunt to first base. It was a guarantee that it was gonna happen."

Maybe someday, if Gardenhire has his way, the Tigers will have a reputation for it, too.

"You have to remember, the game's changed," Gardenhire said. "Bunting, that's not pretty anymore. It's walks and lift. It's a different part of the game. The speed guys should always work on that and try those things. But it's different the way the game's played. Bunting a runner over doesn't happen very much anymore -- the sacrifice, the whole package. You play to what you have right now.

"These [Rays] teams here always had players that do those things and not the glamorous, big home runs. They're gritty baseball players here. This team has always played and respected the game here, and they do those things. We haven't had that, so [with] a change of the guard, maybe we'll see."

Zimmermann to get extended break around All-Star Game
Jordan Zimmermann will make his final start of the first half on Wednesday, then won't start again until at least next weekend. It's an extended break for the veteran right-hander, during his most effective stretch since his first month in Detroit in 2016.

Video: TEX@DET: Zimmermann notches 11 K's across 8 innings

"Maintenance," Gardenhire said of the break.

Zimmermann said the break gives him time to potentially receive a nerve block injection in his back, which he last had just before Spring Training. While the Tigers are in Houston this weekend, he plans to fly to Dallas to visit orthopedic surgeon Keith Meister, who has helped maintain his back and neck.

"We'll see how I come out of this next [start]," Zimmermann said. "I've been feeling pretty good, but if I'm going to take 3-4 days off of throwing anyways, I might just go and get the shot and then have 3-4 days off to get me through the second half."

Zimmermann said he has been feeling tightness after some of his recent starts, but nothing compared to past years.

"Everything's been feeling good," he said. "I'm throwing the ball extremely well right now. I have no complaints right now. It's more to just make sure it doesn't come back, [to] just knock it out and be done with it."

Quick hits
• The Tigers announced Tuesday they've promoted right-handed starter Kyle Funkhouser from Double-A Erie to Triple-A Toledo. The 24-year-old Funkhouser, the Tigers' seventh-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, went 4-5 with a 3.74 ERA in 17 starts for the SeaWolves, striking out 89 batters over 89 innings.

Shane Greene, currently on the 10-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain, said Tuesday his bullpen session went well and that he's on track to be activated for this weekend's series in Houston.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Jordan Zimmermann