Zimmermann Says Accountability Higher Under Gardenhire Than Ausmus

Expect a different culture this season.

Will Burchfield
March 22, 2018 - 1:41 pm
Mar 22, 2018; Clearwater, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire (15) gives a tip to a player before a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Spectrum Field.

© Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports


It was in the dog days of a dismal summer of baseball in Detroit last year that Nicholas Castellanos, needlessly trying to take an extra base in a loss to the Twins, was thrown out at third to extinguish a late-game rally. Brad Ausmus would later deem the mistake indefensible. He would also admit he never discussed it with Castellanos afterward. 

"What am I gonna say?" Ausmus asked. 

It captured the lack of accountability in the Tigers' clubhouse. Mental mistakes were often excused. The team's veteran players policed themselves. By the end of the year, with the loses piling up and Ausmus clearly on his way out, the air was thick with apathy. 

Expect a different culture this season under old-school manager Ron Gardenhire.

"I feel like if you do something wrong or you're not where you're supposed to be, he’s going to let you know and be tough on you at times," Jordan Zimmermann told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket. "But at the end of the day, he’s got our back and he wants us just to play hard. If you play hard for him, there’s going to be no issues." 

The Tigers hired Gardenhire in large part because of his emphasis on the fundamentals. On a team chock full of young players, sloppy baseball will not be excused. A standard will be established and enforced. Indeed, one quote has spilled from Detroit's clubhouse this spring more than any other: "We're going to play the game the right way."

Gardenhire's brand of baseball entails clean defense, smart base running and strong situational hitting. The latter department was another area in which the Tigers struggled with Ausmus at the helm, so much so that Jim Leyland, Ausmus' predecessor, made note of it last season

If the humor has increased with Gardenhire around -- "He brings (it) up a few notches," Zimmermann said -- so has the accountability.  

"When mistakes happened last year, I don’t know if it was just because there were so many veteran guys here, Brad didn’t really say a whole lot and figured that we could figure it out ourselves," Zimmermann said. "But with the younger guys like we have this year, I feel like Gardy lets you know if you didn’t back up a base. He’ll get on you for that, if you don’t do the little things right.

"He’s all about doing the little things. Get the bunt down, move the guy over, hit and run -- just executing normal, everyday baseball stuff. Fly ball to the outfield, the guy’s on second, throw the ball to third. Little things like that kind of get lost when you have a veteran ballclub because then you just expect everybody to do it.

The Tigers may not win a whole lot this season, but they can be counted on to play sound, fundamental baseball. An exciting proposition? Maybe not. But a vital expectation as the organization places its stock in a host of young players. 

Gardenhire will groom them the right way. 

"At the end of the day, if you do something wrong he’s going to get on you and let you know," Zimmermann said. "And it’s all for the benefit of the player."