Tigers pick former rival, hire Gardenhire as new manager

DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers have hired Ron Gardenhire as their manager, bringing the longtime Minnesota Twins skipper back to the AL Central to take over a team in the middle of a significant rebuilding process.

The Tigers announced the move Friday, saying Gardenhire has agreed to a three-year contract. Then Gardenhire was introduced at a news conference at Comerica Park.

“I’ve been here, battled here against this team for a long time,” Gardenhire said. “Always respected it.”

Gardenhire takes over for Brad Ausmus, who was let go after four seasons as Detroit’s manager. The Tigers went 64-98 this season, finishing tied for the worst record in the majors.

The 59-year-old Gardenhire was the bench coach this season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He managed the Twins from 2002-14, going 1,068-1,039. He’s one of 10 managers in baseball history to win at least 1,000 games with one team.

The Twins won the division six times in Gardenhire’s first nine seasons in charge, and he was voted AL Manager of the Year in 2010.

Ausmus had little managerial experience when he was hired to replace Jim Leyland after the 2013 season. Detroit won a fourth straight division crown in its first season under Ausmus, but the Tigers haven’t made the postseason since.

Gardenhire certainly has plenty of experience managing, and he also was the third base coach in 1991 when the Twins won the World Series. He held various roles on the coaching staff before being hired as Minnesota’s manager.

Gardenhire revealed this past February that he had prostate cancer. He had surgery April 18 and was back with the Diamondbacks about a month later. Arizona enjoyed a successful turnaround this season under first-year manager Torey Lovullo, winning the NL wild-card game before getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the division series.

The Tigers traded Justin Verlander, Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez earlier this year. Detroit announced late in the season that Ausmus wouldn’t be back, and it may take a while for the team to contend again. Even before this season started, the Tigers indicated they would need to trim payroll, and although they began 2017 with a roster full of familiar names, they committed fully to a rebuild after falling out of contention.

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