Detroit Tigers' Ron Gardenhire (illness) returns, sends message to slumping Isaac Paredes
Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire is back to work.
He left Saturday's game against the Minnesota Twins in the sixth inning with a stomach virus related to gastrointestinal issues and stayed in the clubhouse at Target Field for the matchups Sunday and Monday, leaving bench coach Lloyd McClendon to take leadership of the team.
"I think I just ate something wrong, and it didn't do very well in my system," Gardenhire, 62, said Tuesday. "Really got to my stomach. I think there was a little bit more to it than a virus."
Still, Gardenhire showed up at Comerica Park on Tuesday ready to manage the Tigers (18-21) to begin a two-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers. He ate a grilled ham and cheese sandwich before batting practice, the first substance he has put into his body recently.
The last three days have been tough on Gardenhire, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He had to undergo coronavirus testing at his home in Minnesota when he got sick before he could fly home with the team. His stomach troubles were a reminder of the worldwide health concerns amid the virus.
"My health is just, I have to take care of myself," Gardenhire said. "I know my age. I know what's going on in this world. And I have to be very concerned. That's why I stepped back and stayed away for a day or two."
When a player or coach has symptoms of any illness, they have to undergo COVID-19 testing before gaining permission to rejoin the team. Gardenhire was told he couldn't leave for Monday's 2:10 p.m. game at Target Field until the results of his test became official at noon.
"So, a guy came to my house, did the nose swab, and everything came out negative, which we all thought it would," Gardenhire said. "I haven't been outside of my house and the ballpark. I don't do those things."
Once he arrived at the ballpark, he sat in his office inside the clubhouse until the Tigers left for their flight home to Detroit. With McClendon taking over in his absence, Gardenhire didn't feel the need to rush back.
McClendon, 61, was a manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates (2001-05) and Seattle Mariners (2014-15). He coached with the Pirates from 1997-2000 and Tigers from 2006-13. He returned to Detroit in 2017.
"He's very good at what he does," Gardenhire said. "He has great experience as a manager, and he understands the game as well as anybody. All of my coaches do. I trust them, there's just no way I could sit on the bench with them during those games. They took care of it. They did everything right."
As shortstop Willi Castro leads the Tigers with his .349 batting average, another Castro — unrelated — is working his way back from a stint on the 10-day injured list.
Utility player Harold Castro went on the injured list Aug. 19 with a left hamstring strain and, as of a Sept. 1 update from head athletic trainer Doug Teter, was performing all on-field activities and testing his base-running abilities.
He had a recent setback when he felt tightness in his right hamstring.
"I think we'll give him a couple more days," Gardenhire said. "I don't think it was a pull or anything like that. I just think he just a little nervous because he got a little cramp in his other leg. But he's close to being ready to come and join us, just got to make him 100% before we get him here, if that's possible."
Castro can play third base, second base, first base, shortstop and all three outfield positions. In 87 games last season, he slashed .291/.305/.384 with 10 doubles, four triples, five homers and 38 RBIs.
Through 15 games before his injury this year, he has a .276 average.
Gardenhire benched third baseman Isaac Paredes in favor of fellow rookie Sergio Alcantara, who only played in one MLB game entering Tuesday.
Paredes made his big-league debut Aug. 17 and was 7-for-22 in his first seven games, with a home run, a double, six RBIs and four walks to go with eight strikeouts. Since then, he is 1-for-24 with eight strikeouts and one walk.
He is hitless in his last 18 at-bats.
Here is Gardenhire's message: "This is what happens in the big leagues. There's a lot of great pitchers, and you're a kid, and you're going to get some things called that might not be strikes, and you have to handle them better and not let it run your AB."
Paredes only chases (swings at pitches outside the strike zone) 25.6% of the time, below the 28.2% MLB average, and his chase contact rate is 53.1%, again below the 59.5% league average. But on pitches inside the strike zone, he makes contact 91.4% of the time, which much higher than the 82.9% league average.
What this means is Paredes needs to learn to swing outside of the zone — and make contact. He can't only rely on what enters the strike zone because pitchers in the majors know how to paint the corners for strikes.
As the Tigers continue to chase for a spot in the playoffs, Wednesday's 1:10 p.m. matchup with the Brewers can only be seen on YouTube.
There will be four games in September across the majors exclusively on YouTube.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content.