Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson collided in the late 1970s, well before they teamed up in the 2018 season to aid the Detroit Tigers’ rebuild. Back then, barely old enough to drink a beer, they matured together in the New York Mets’ minor-league system.
They were roommates in their journey to the majors, and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
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When Gardenhire became the Minnesota Twins manager in 2002, he brought Anderson up from the minors. After working with prospects for 13 years, Gardenhire figured Anderson earned his opportunity.
“He hired me on, and we’ve been together since,” Anderson said Tuesday. “It’s tough to see him go, but we’re happy to see him go for all the other circumstances. He’ll be missed, but like I told him, we’ll still be close, hang out and do our things together.”
But they won’t be together on the baseball field.
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That’s because Gardenhire, citing health reasons, announced his retirement Saturday, leaving Anderson’s future with the Tigers in limbo.
Anderson was in an eerily similar position in 2014 when Gardenhire was fired from the Twins. His contract wasn’t picked up by the new manager. He was out of baseball until three years later, when Gardenhire called again.
Without Gardenhire around anymore, there’s no telling what’s next for Anderson.
“It’s just gonna come down to what Al decides,” Anderson said. “I’m sure it’s gonna come down to who’s gonna manage and who he wants back. We really haven’t even talked. I’m sure sometime by the end of the year or the offseason, I don’t know. Just gonna have to see where Al’s at with all of this for us to make a decision.”
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Detroit’s starting rotation has a 6.27 ERA, worst in MLB. The bullpen isn’t much better, either, with a 5.10 ERA – just five spots from the bottom. Overall, the Tigers are 29th in team ERA, only better than the Boston Red Sox.
The bright spot in the rotation this season is right-hander Spencer Turnbull, who has a 3.83 ERA across 10 starts. Otherwise, there’s not a lot to smile about from Matthew Boyd (6.96 ERA), Michael Fulmer (8.17) and rookies Casey Mize (8.53) and Tarik Skubal (6.00).
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“To me, I look at the numbers,” Anderson said. “Yes, disappointing. There’s no excuses. It was a quick second spring (training), three weeks. Let’s hurry, let’s get it going. Some guys start out slow, and as long as you see them climb, I think it’s been successful.”
Each pitcher have seen small spurts of brilliance, but besides Turnbull, they’ve lacked consistency. Boyd seemed to be on the rise, utilizing his change-up more often in a few dominant performances, but he crumbled in his last start with five runs in five innings.
It’s a similar case for Fulmer, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and on a three-inning limit. He has made tweaks, and they’ve worked. Still, his short-term success has not been sustained.
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“Matty Boyd makes too many mistakes down the middle,” Anderson said. “… But, Matty’s shown improvements. He’s just basically using his pitches now, all of them. And Bull (Turnbull), he’s just still going forward. He’s had a nice year. Between those two, and hopefully a healthy Michael Fulmer, and the other two kids, hopefully, in the near future, it’s gonna be fun.”
Yet “hopefully” might not be enough for Anderson to keep his job, especially considering this season was supposed to help iron out a healthy mix of expert and novice pitchers in the rotation.
There’s no doubt 2020 has been difficult. So, he’s ready for 2021, even if it’s his most uncertain year since his good friend was fired by the Twins in 2014.
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