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December 11, 2019

Ron Gardenhire

San Diego, California

Q. We talked about this earlier, but your staff has been realigned. What are the advantages of that? How can this make things better for you this season?
RON GARDENHIRE: It's always good to move people around. I think the biggest thing that we talked about at the end of the year is my staff worked really, really hard. I just didn't feel like they should be punished by getting let go or anything like that.

We talked about maybe just shaking it up and moving people around. We talked about Lloyd with the hitting was kinda burnt out. He worked his tail off with a lot of young kids. You know, Joe's been a really good hitting coach, so did a little flip-flop and put Santee at third base; give Clarke a chance to relax over there, and see what happens.

So we decided to do that rather than lose a coach. The biggest thing for me was keeping my staff. I thought they worked their tails off and did a nice job and they stayed positive, and I think they deserve another shot at this.

Q. 114 losses.
RON GARDENHIRE: I thought it was 115, but 14 is fine with me.

Q. I don't want to give you another one.

Q. American League's message was the teardown is over. It's time to build it back up. What's realistic for 2020 in terms of that?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, I mean, I guess we have to wait and see how it ends up here from the meetings and what we do the rest of this winter. There is hope we are going to be better. We need to be better. We need to win games. Our fans saw a rough one last year. We need to win games for the sanity of everybody involved, you guys, too.

So it's time, and that's the good thing about it. We're talking about building now rather than rebuilding. We think we're past that point. Now we're going to start to build and get better, and is it starts right here, picking up some good players and trying to sign guys that can come in and fill where our kids need a little more seasoning.

Q. Can you expand what you like about Joe as your hitting coach?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, he's a tireless worker, very good at reading swing planes, and politically he's worked hard at figuring out what we're talking about in all those areas. I had him. He's a very good coach. He coached some of the better hitters that I got to manage, Joe Mauer, Morneau, and they loved him and he did a nice job over there in Minnesota. He's done a lot of different jobs, so he has a feel for every position as far as a staff guy goes.

But this is a good one for us. It's a good move. I think Joe is going to handle it well, and I think you're going to see kids improving. I know some of the veteran guys are excited, too.

Q. With Lloyd moving right next to you then, you got a little taste of that last year, huh? Toward the end of the season felt like he was more in your ear.
RON GARDENHIRE: Yeah, always is. I kind of leaned on Lloyd for lineups. We would get all the information, but talk with Lloyd about what he thought. He was with the hitters and he had a really good feel of who he thought was swinging good. We had a lot of conversations anyway. I think Lloyd, this was a good move for him. I think he was worn out.

I think he took a beating ever over the last couple of years trying to figure out these young hitters, so this is a good move for him. Good move for me because I have another veteran manager on the bench sitting next to me.

Q. How long did it take you after the season to decompress and wash off the...
RON GARDENHIRE: Who said I'm decompressed? Still working on it.

No, there's a lot of things. You look back at it and it was rough. You try to put it away, but I still think a lot about it. I still think of how proud I was of how hard those kids played all the way to the end and how good the clubhouse remained, even though we were losing, which is hard to do, too.

Give credit to my coaching staff for being out there and listening to them and helping them through. There was a lot of good things that happened. The record wasn't one of them. I feel pretty good about it. Being here around the baseball guys in this setting and being up there in the room with them listing to the information they're throwing out there and what we're trying to do here, that's the fun part. That we're going out there and meeting with a lot of people and talking with guys and trying to get people to sign with us.

Q. Ron, from your perspective, how confident are you that you will be able to improve on last season?
RON GARDENHIRE: I'm confident. You just never know what's going to happen. All we can do is get there and explain to them what we want done and how we're going to go about our business. I don't think we will have a problem with guys busting their tails and getting it done in Spring Training, but we want to set forth a plan to be better all the way around, win more ball games.

That's what everybody wants to see and that's how you start and finish off with the build, as we call it, and figuring out how to win ball games. That's what we gotta try to do.

Q. How confident are you if Niko ends up being the shortstop?
RON GARDENHIRE: I'm fine. He had an stint last year where we played him exclusively there and he played the heck out of it. He was that coming in -- I was with the Twins organization when he was the shortstop. He can do a lot of different things. I'm confident if you give him one job to do that he's going to go out there and give it everything he has. I can't tell you if he's going to be a Gold Glover, but I know for the stint that he played consistently out there, he was really good, covered ground, the whole package. He's always had a big arm, so he can do a lot of things.

Q. Gardy, where do you stand on the sign stealing controversy? Maybe it's gone to a level that's going to be reckoned with.
RON GARDENHIRE: It's always been part of the game, trying to pick up the catcher signs and stuff. That part has always been fine. When you get into the other stuff, that's when it gets out there. I think that's what everybody is trying to stop. Everybody is going to continue to look and see if you can get a catcher's routine and signs, but the other part of it we've got to get rid of. That's a little bit unfair, and I think baseball is taking care of it. That's what we've been told and I believe them.

You know what? I think it's hard to screw up this game. I don't think anybody is going to screw this game up. It's a good game.

Q. How do you see your rotation heading into Spring Training?
RON GARDENHIRE: I do. I do see my rotation heading into Spring Training. I just don't know who is going to be in it. You saw the guys at the end of last year. We had three guys that I think should be bid on, Turnbull and probably Chuck Norris, and then you look at the rest of them.

But those guys kind of earned a little bit here. We're going to add some people hopefully, and there are some people still there that will probably get a shot. I'm probably missing names. But you know what? That's kinda what we're trying to do, put the pieces together with the bullpen and have depth.

We know we're going to have depth at Triple A. It's just that we're not going to be able to bring 'em up right away. Hope the first half goes quick.

Q. Do you think it's a deterrent to bringing a starting pitcher in when they know, their agents certainly know what's sitting in Triple A and how close they are to getting to this level. They're looking at a one-year window by the trade deadline.
RON GARDENHIRE: There are a lot of people looking for jobs. If you want to pitch and stay in the Big Leagues you take the job. We're looking like a lot of other ball clubs. You know what? This is going to be the right person. I don't worry about that. I just want to pitch, and he will get the opportunity with us.

That's the way it's supposed to work. We're searching, and hopefully we will find the right fix.

Q. How important is for you to find some stability at the catcher position, whether it's one of the kids or bringing in a veteran?
RON GARDENHIRE: It is. We saw what happened last year. We got a little thin in that department with a couple of injuries. You gotta protect yourself. We're definitely looking for catching. There is a lot of ball clubs who are, and there has been some on the move already. We'll come out with a catcher or two I'm pretty sure.

Q. Why do you think Tigers are never interested in signing Japanese players?
RON GARDENHIRE: I think we're looking, just like everybody else. We have scouts from over there, just like every other ball club. I know there has been names. We're not talking about a lot of things in front of people, but there is always interest. Good pitchers are good pitchers, and we need 'em.

We're looking for them just like every other ball club, so I'm sure his name has come flying across a few times.

Q. He's a position player, and you have experience with Japanese position player?
RON GARDENHIRE: Yes, absolutely.

Q. What do you think about them?
RON GARDENHIRE: They know how to play. They get after the game. Very routine oriented. They work very, very hard, and that's always fun to see. There is a lot of talent and it's getting better and better. Their leagues are getting better and better over there and more talent is coming, and I think the best part about it has been there have been a lot of successful stories coming from overseas. That makes players want to come this way and give it a shot, and it's important for all of us in baseball.

Q. Are you interested in to go?
RON GARDENHIRE: I am. I would manage over there. If I get fired you call me, which is probably a good probability. (Chuckles.)

Q. In free agency or trades, what ways would you like the front office to improve the team, in which facets?
RON GARDENHIRE: Well, you know, we've got our goals when we came in here, what we're looking for, run producers, maybe a position player in the middle to help out the kids. Pitching, obviously, is always there. Bullpen helps. We've got all kinds of areas. When you lose as many games as we did, there are areas there.

We were awful young at the end of the season, and we're trying to get leadership to go along with Miguel and guys that can drive in runs to give us a better chance of winning, and that's where we're at right now.

Q. How important is Miguel to this team this season and going forward?
RON GARDENHIRE: Always. He's the guy here. The future Hall of Famer, and he's working really hard from what I've been told. There have been pictures online of him looking really, really good, and for him to be able to sustain throughout the season he has to stay in shape. He's got to lose weight, he knows that, and he's been told all this, and get himself back in good shape. That's the only way he's going to keep his legs underneath him.

Q. What do you want to see defensively from Stewart going into the next season?
RON GARDENHIRE: There is a lot of work to be done. The kid we know has a chance to hit. He still hasn't really broken through offensively and had a big year, but he's had some pretty good performances. Defensively, you know, got a lot of work. His arm strength is not great, so that means he's got to hit the cut-off man, and he misses that too many times. And he's got to slow the game down and not get excited, do the little things, catch the balls you're supposed to.

We tried last year not to put him in too many shifts. Just play straight up where you get the ball you're normally supposed to. Then we tried to help him, too, get him in the right spot.

That's an area to improve in. To remain in the Big Leagues, he's going to have to get better at it. He works at it. He's out there every day taking balls off the bat, and he's got to get better at it and get his swing going.

Q. Are you okay going into the season with one year left on your contract? Do you expect to have any conversations about your contract?
RON GARDENHIRE: Listen, when you lose -- how many did we say? 114. I didn't finish the season thinking, can't wait until they extend me! We talked about it and said let's give this time, and we will talk at the end of the season or somewhere near the end of the season, and I will let them know whether I want to and whether they want to, and it's going to be a mutual thing. I'm not worried about that at all. I've been managing a long time, and I want to see us win ball games. I want to have some fun shaking hands a little bit more, and then I'll know I'm doing my job.

Q. Do you view Joe Jimenez as your closer going into Spring Training?
RON GARDENHIRE: Absolutely, without a doubt for me.

Q. Is Buck the set-up man?
RON GARDENHIRE: He's worked his way right up there. He's done well. The kid takes the ball and he's become a leader. He threw the ball really well. He knows how to use his stuff now, and absolutely he's made his way toward the back end of that bullpen, and it's a credit to everything he's done. He's worked hard.

Q. How is the three-batter minimum going to affect how you use your bullpen?
RON GARDENHIRE: Can we talk about that after a few cocktails? (Chuckles.) There was a lot of conversation about that three-batters. We've got a lot of managers still trying to figure out how it's going to work out.

It's not one of those favorite things for a manager because it starts taking away a little bit of strategy. I know the game is tough when you walk out there and change a pitcher for every hitter, but at times it's about trying to win a ball game, and I think that's what we're all here for. Those are the arguments. But we're trying to improve the game, so we've got to give it a look before day one.

Q. Does it look at how you might look at lefty relievers, bringing Ramirez back up or going out into the market?
RON GARDENHIRE: Absolutely. A guy is a specialty reliever, a lefty gets lefties out, gotta face three hitters and doesn't do very good against righties, you've got an issue there, and a chance to lose a ball game because of something like that, and I think that's a concern of all the managers: Does it affect the game, and you lose? We're trying to make the ball game better, faster, the whole package, and I get all that because the games are long.

Q. So it's probably a premium for you getting a righty, lefty, righty in your batting order, too?
RON GARDENHIRE: Definitely. We would hope so. I don't know if we have a lead-off hitter yet, one of those guys that irritates the crap out of everybody. I know Jacoby has been there, and that prototype guy, I don't think you see him yet. I think we have people coming up from the Minor Leagues who have some experience, so whether we find somebody like that that can do it now, or whether we will ad-lib. When you get to Spring Training you have to deal with what you have, and that's what we'll do; we'll figure it out.

Q. Are you a fan of the three-batter minimum?
RON GARDENHIRE: Am I a fan? I love it when my pitchers get three hitters out in a row. I think that's the greatest thing in the world. How do you like that answer?

Q. Good answer.
RON GARDENHIRE: Okay? I think we did good.

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