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Tigers pitchers welcome Gardenhire with prank

New manager got up-close look at his players' sense of humor at first full-squad workout
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ron Gardenhire addressed Tigers pitchers and catchers prior to his first Spring Training workout as Detroit manager and warned them that he might take a while to learn their names.

"So, if I call you buddy," Jordan Zimmermann recalled Gardenhire saying, "when you go running off, I'll look at the back of your jersey and know who you are."

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ron Gardenhire addressed Tigers pitchers and catchers prior to his first Spring Training workout as Detroit manager and warned them that he might take a while to learn their names.

"So, if I call you buddy," Jordan Zimmermann recalled Gardenhire saying, "when you go running off, I'll look at the back of your jersey and know who you are."

Tigers' Spring Training information

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

That got Zimmermann's mind working. More importantly, it got his subtle sense of humor going. For the Tigers' first full-squad workout, he figured, he should wear a jersey that had "BUDDY" on the back where his name would go. He liked the idea so much, he told fellow Tigers pitchers Michael Fulmer and Alex Wilson, who have the lockers on either side of his.

"They thought it was a good idea," Zimmermann said. "So, we just rolled with it."

Thus, as Tigers players began their morning stretch Monday and Gardenhire tried to learn names, he had three pitchers with the name "BUDDY" on the back.

"It was fun," Wilson said. "He had a few choice words for me."

Said Zimmermann: "He was laughing. A few cuss words out there. It's all in good fun."

There was also a vow of revenge.

Tweet from @tigers: Last week: Gardy says he���ll use ���Hey Buddy��� until he has your name down.This week: pic.twitter.com/sljz91AzxS

Tweet from @tigers: Call it "The Buddy System." pic.twitter.com/3xuzq3Dac6

"Go ahead, play around, boys," Gardenhire said. "Just wait. If they throw a couple of good games in Spring Training, they may be wearing those Buddy shirts all year. We'll put Buddy 1, Buddy 2 and Buddy 3 on there. You know what, I'll take it if they start pitching well, that's OK."

Santiago showing off small glovework

When Ramon Santiago was an infield prospect in the Gulf Coast League, roving instructor Rafael Landestoy gave him a tool to help him work on his fielding. It was a very small infield glove, barely bigger than a normal hand. Landestoy wanted Santiago to work on fielding ground balls with that glove so that he could work on getting the ball in the right part of the glove every time rather than relying on the webbing for forgiveness.

Nearly two decades later, as Santiago embarks on his first Spring Training as Tigers infield coach, he dusted off the glove to use with infielders in camp.

"I believe in this a lot," he said. "It helps you stay down on the ball and catch the ball in the right place."

Video: Al Avila on expectations for Spring Training

Santiago plans to have infielders try out the glove during extra fielding work. He would like to get similar gloves for infield prospects to take with them into the season at their various Minor League stops.

Former Tigers communications director dies

Cliff Russell, whose storied career in Detroit media included a stint in the Tigers' front office as the director of communications, passed away on Sunday at age 61.

Russell worked as the Tigers' senior director of communications in 2002 and 2003, the first African-American in the position in the club's history. The native Detroiter's storied career also included a tenure as press secretary for Detroit mayor Dennis Archer, a lengthy career in radio with WWJ and most recently a position as part of the radio team for University of Detroit Mercy basketball. He's a member of the Wayne State University Athletics Hall of Fame for his basketball playing career.

"The Detroit Tigers are saddened to learn of the passing of Cliff Russell," the team said in a statement. "We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends during this time."

Quick hits

• Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris was excused from Monday's workout. He was in Philadelphia for a follow-up visit with Dr. William Meyers, who examined Norris after his midseason groin injury last year. Norris was cleared to ramp up his workouts and is expected back in camp on Tuesday.

• The Tigers' offseason-long pursuit of right-hander Chris Tillman ended Tuesday, when the free agent returned to the Orioles on a Major League contract. Tillman threw for Tigers officials on Saturday in Lakeland, a source confirmed, but the team was seeking a Minor League contract with a non-roster invite. Tillman reportedly will make a $3 million base salary with the O's, plus incentives.

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

Detroit Tigers