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Notes: Staying safe on road, anthem, Stewart

@beckjason
July 22, 2020

Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has talked plenty with his club about being ready for the season, on and off the field. One of the key points he raised was staying safe while they’re on the road. “I think taking care of yourself is going to be a really big part

Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has talked plenty with his club about being ready for the season, on and off the field. One of the key points he raised was staying safe while they’re on the road.

“I think taking care of yourself is going to be a really big part of everything we're doing now,” Gardenhire said earlier this week. “When you get to the hotel in Cincinnati, we've talked to these guys about being safe and respecting all your other teammates. Because if you go out screwing around and run into bars or whatever it might be and you bring something back, it can hurt a whole ballclub. We talked about that a lot, and I've talked to the players about it, because we are a group, we are a team, and you have to take care of each other. Those things we talk about.

“The baseball part of it is pretty simple: Go out and play the game the right way and run the balls out. We've got some good veteran leaders along with some young guys, and I think those veteran guys are going to help.”

That group mentality, especially health-wise, was brought up more than once during Summer Camp.

This week’s trip to Cincinnati for exhibition games and the season-opening series marks the team’s first venture outside Detroit since Summer Camp began earlier this month. The Tigers spent the last few weeks establishing a fairly safe routine between Comerica Park and their accommodations -- hotels for some, condos or houses for others.

The road obviously changes that routine. The Tigers flew into Cincinnati on Tuesday afternoon for a 6:40 p.m. ET start instead of leaving the day before like in past years. The flight, according to players, wasn’t much different.

“Except for the face mask, it was pretty normal,” said catcher Austin Romine.

They settled into their hotel after the game. From there, the usual sightseeing or venturing around town is out of the question.

“I know we’re going to enjoy the times in the hotel together, because we’re not going to be leaving,” said Matthew Boyd earlier this week. “We’re going to be staying put together.”

Tigers meet regarding national anthem
The Tigers held multiple meetings during Summer Camp regarding what to do for the national anthem. They ultimately decided that each player should do what they choose and they will support each other in whatever they decide.

“We've had meetings a couple different times. We are united,” Gardenhire said after Monday’s 9-7 loss. “Our baseball team is united here. Baseball in general is united on what we're trying to do here and make statements about what's been happening in this country.

“I believe in my guys. I told them, ‘Take a stand, you do what you have to do.’ I have no problem with that whatsoever. And I have no problem with those guys on the other side kneeling. That doesn't bother me one bit.”

Stewart using opposite field
Early on during the Tigers’ intrasquad games this month, Christin Stewart stepped into the batter’s box, looked up and saw wide-open space on the left side of the field. He decided to drop down a bunt and dash to first base as the ball rolled, untouched.

Gardenhire doesn’t want to see the young slugger bunting, but Stewart is finding other ways to beat the shift by going against his pull tendencies. He had an RBI single last week on a chopper that went through where the shortstop would normally be. He also had found the left-field gap more.

“I try not to think about the shift, because I don’t want to change what I do best,” Stewart said. “The biggest thing is I’ve just been trying to hit the ball where it comes. I’m just not trying to do too much with it. I can definitely pull an outside pitch, but it’s all about how to catch it. I’ve been working on my swing path a little bit. Just staying in the zone longer allows me to go to the opposite field a little better.”

Opponents shifted their infield against the left-handed-hitting Stewart on about two-thirds of his plate appearances last year, just outside the top 50 among Major League hitters. He hit better against the shift (.309 weighted on-base average) than without it (.274 wOBA).

Up next
Matthew Boyd gets the ball in his first Opening Day start on Friday as the Tigers begin their 2020 regular season with a 6:10 p.m. ET game against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Boyd will be the first left-handed pitcher to start Opening Day for Detroit since David Price in 2015; Price was traded to Toronto later that year for three prospects, including Boyd.

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