Brandon Dixon walked into Target Field on Tuesday afternoon thinking he was going to hang around as part of the Tigers’ taxi squad, having spent the entire season at the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio. Then interim manager Lloyd McClendon and general manager Al Avila called the utility player into McClendon’s office.
Dixon was on the active roster. He was also starting in left field Tuesday night.
“It was a nice little surprise to see my name in the lineup,” he said.
It was a nice reward for Dixon, who led the Tigers with 15 home runs last season but spent the past two months working out in Toledo. But it was also a search for offense with second baseman Jonathan Schoop ruled out for the rest of the season.
Schoop was moved to the 45-day injured list to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Dixon. What was initially hoped to be a 10-day right wrist injury for Schoop simply didn’t improve, ending what had been his best season in three years in terms of OPS and OPS+.
“He didn't progress to where we thought he was going to progress,” McClendon said. “He's certainly not going to be ready in the next week or so, so we had no choice.”
Schoop hit .278 (45-for-162) with four doubles, two triples, a team-high eight homers and 23 RBIs this season. He was batting .305 with an .883 OPS on Sept. 6, the Tigers’ last trip to Minnesota, before going 2-for-21 over his final seven games. He took a pitch off his right wrist in the second game of that stretch.
“Jonathan is very talented; his numbers showed that,” McClendon said. “This guy was a force when he was in our lineup hitting second. It's a tough loss for us.
“He led by example. He wasn't very vocal, but he went out and did his job to the best of his ability. He ran every ball out, turned double plays like a professional, obviously drove in runs for us and hit some home runs.”
For Dixon, the late-season stint isn’t so much an audition as a chance to take what he has been working on in Toledo and put it into actual games rather than the simulated games at Fifth Third Field.
"It's tough to put yourself in a position to try to prove something within six games,” Dixon said. “I'm not really going to put pressure on myself or anything like that. I'm going to go about my business like it's just another day.”
Anderson finishes season without Gardy
Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson go back to their days as teammates in the Mets' farm system in the late 1970s and early '80s. When Gardenhire became Twins manager in 2002, he hired Anderson as his pitching coach, a pairing that stayed together through Gardenhire’s entire tenure in Minnesota. When Gardenhire became Tigers manager, he brought Anderson back, first as bullpen coach, then as pitching coach.
Now, with Gardenhire retired, Anderson is coaching without his longtime friend, colleague and boss for the first time since he was a pitching coach at Triple-A Salt Lake in 2001.
“It's tough to see him go in that sense, but we're happy to see him go for all the other circumstances,” Anderson said. “He'll be missed, but like I told him, we'll still be close and hang out and do our things, just not on the baseball field.”
Like many, Anderson was worried about Gardenhire’s health.
“Gardy's been a little paranoid -- as everyone is -- with this COVID thing all year. That wore on him a lot,” Anderson said. “When we were here in Minnesota last time, he got sick and he thought it was food poisoning or whatnot, and he just never was feeling better. That on top of the COVID thing and everything else, I think it just got to him. We're all saying, ‘You did the right thing because of the stress and stuff you're going through.’”
The 63-year-old Anderson said he does not know his coaching future. He said he’ll talk with Avila about his situation at some point.
“I'm sure it's going to come down to who's going to manage and who he wants back and we really haven't even talked,” Anderson said. “Just going to have to see where Al's with all this before I have to make a decision.”