Gardy's message simple: Mind the little things

Manager emphasizes fundamentals during first spring workout

February 13th, 2019

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers were in the middle of a winless West Coast trip last August when a particularly ugly loss to the Angels stuck with manager Ron Gardenhire. After scoring just three runs in the previous four games, Detroit scored two runs in the opening inning, only to allow seven in the bottom half with help from defensive miscues.

Gardenhire had a team meeting afterward and vented. He could shoulder the losses, but he couldn't accept the sloppy play.

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"We're writing it all down," he said the next day. "This is all going to have to change. This is our first time doing this with this organization, and there are going to be changes, all the way up and down."

He couldn't change it then, not after trades and injuries had decimated the roster. Real change would have to happen the next season, starting in Spring Training, with an emphasis on fundamentals.

As the Tigers open camp this week, Gardenhire hasn't forgotten. He talked with Minor League coaches and staff Wednesday about holding players accountable and not letting careless mistakes slide. And he plans to set a similar tone in big league camp.

Gardenhire wants to build a fun atmosphere in which players enjoy going on the field and working. But he also wants them to get the little things right.

"It's all about paying attention to the details, not letting things go," Gardenhire said Wednesday morning before the first workout of Spring Training. "Simple as taking infield, and [if] guys are winging it all over the place, trying to be too quick, we have conversations about slowing it down. Just get one out. Outfielders overthrowing a cutoff guy standing there with his glove? Simple base hit. Just throw it to the guy standing there.

"It's the simplest things that irritate you. Like, why would you lob it over that guy's head who's standing 15 yards in front of you, and bounce it off the other guy's chest? It makes no sense to me. That's the thing we're going to say, and it's pretty basic baseball. We're not going over the top. And then we'll get into the deeper stuff, too, analytically, about shifts and all those things. We're going to do a lot here in this camp, and we're going to try to keep it fun, but we're going to pay attention to detail."

The easiest place to instill that mentality in players is in the Minor Leagues, which is why Gardenhire talked to coaches and instructors about it. That becomes especially important now with the farm system stockpiling prospects who are expected to compete for jobs in Detroit over the next few years.

With so many players and prospects in Major League camp brought in from other organizations, some of the more immediate work will fall on Gardenhire and his staff. Part of the message Gardenhire plans to convey is for players to slow things down in drills and make the right play, rather than rushing a play and either not executing or making a bad decision.

"There's going to be a lot of games, and we only have nine days before the first game, so we have to get some work done," Gardenhire said. "We have to slow down and take our time on all of our drills, pay attention to all the details of the drills, make them do it right -- not just do it, do it right -- and create an atmosphere where these guys are excited to get to the ballpark every day. That's the biggest thing."

Moore returns, Fulmer has hearing

The Tigers had nearly perfect attendance Wednesday for their first workout of the spring. That included , who had stepped away from Tuesday's optional workout to be with his wife as she went into labor with their first child.

One player out was , whose arbitration hearing was scheduled for Wednesday in St. Petersburg. Fulmer's case marks the Tigers' first arbitration hearing since Chris Holt in 2001. Fulmer is expected back Thursday.