Somewhere, in a different world, Ron Gardenhire would be in the visitors’ dugout in Cleveland.
The Detroit Tigers’ manager would have been talking to reporters there, early Wednesday afternoon, before his team went through a pre-Opening Day workout at Progressive Field. He would talk about how he’s excited to “get ‘er goin’” and finally play a game that counts in the standings, maybe even crack a joke about how his wife is excited he’ll be out of her hair for a while.
It would be cold, but that wouldn’t stop the youngsters on the Opening Day roster from dreaming. Miguel Cabrera would be in a good mood, his arm draped around Lloyd McClendon behind the batting cage. The workout would be quick; don’t want to get worn out before Opening Day.
Somewhere, in a different world, one not interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, today would be Opening Day.
Gardenhire would be answering questions again, about how nice it feels to have some pop in the middle of the batting order, which reliever he would call on in a setup situation, and if he has watched “Tiger King” on Netflix.
Gardenhire would be happy. His players would be happy. You and I would be happy. Everybody would be happy — because baseball would be back.
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Instead, Gardenhire talked to reporters by phone Wednesday afternoon. He was in Fort Myers, Florida, and he didn’t have to worry about reliever roles. He took impossible-to-answer “what if?” questions about when baseball will next be played and answered the saddest of them all: “If you had an Opening Day lineup, who would be in it?” by starting with saying Cabrera would hit third.
“It would go from there,” he said. “We had (Cameron) Maybin leading off because analytically, he gets on base and he has a good eye at the plate and all of those things. But we were just mixing guys around and I was having fun with the lineup because I actually had some veteran hitters that you could kind of place around and it looks like the ball is going to jump out of the ballpark a lot more for us this year, which always makes it more entertaining.”
In a different world, left-hander Matthew Boyd would be starting on the mound — although spring training never reached the point of Gardenhire naming Boyd the starter, he was first in the team’s infield drills, followed by righty Jordan Zimmermann and lefty Daniel Norris — and the Tigers would start at least one day of their 162-game journey not in last place.
Meanwhile, in this world, Cleveland is set for forecasts of 58 degrees on Opening Day and 57 and 62 for Saturday and Sunday’s postponed games. The Tigers’ home opener, formerly scheduled for Monday, was set for a nice 53 degrees with a few clouds.
Gardenhire is in southwest Florida, a couple of hours from Lakeland, where a “skeleton crew” of workers is left after the players mostly departed last week.
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We won’t know the Tigers’ Opening Day roster for a while, not until probably June or July. Who knows when? Gardenhire certainly doesn’t.
“It’s the same thing you guys have heard,” he said.
We’ll hear today the same as yesterday, the same as tomorrow — no baseball, nothing, the sports landscape, like the world, stuck in limbo.
Progressive Field will sit empty today, its prospective grandstand occupants in social distancing-mode around the Cleveland area, its prospective players spread across the country. No turnstiles turning, no fans cheering, no baseball.
The TV networks will air some games from the past. Multiple outlets, including the Free Press, will simulate the opener, streaming it online for viewing. But it won’t be Opening Day.
Gardenhire will be in Florida with his grandchildren, still in his wife’s hair, the golf courses now closed.
“I need to get back on the baseball field,” he said.
It won’t happen today, not in this world, but he can imagine the day it does.
“It’s gonna be really exciting when we get back,” he said. “I think everybody misses the heck out of baseball right now, just like I do … But when we get back, it’s going to be like a party.”
A look at the Tigers’ hypothetical Opening Day lineup:
1. RF Cameron Maybin
2. SS Niko Goodrum
3. DH Miguel Cabrera
4. 1B C.J. Cron
5. 2B Jonathan Schoop
6. 3B Jeimer Candelario
7. C Austin Romine
8. LF Victor Reyes
9. CF JaCoby Jones
Contact Anthony Fenech at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.
Published at Thu, 26 Mar 2020 10:01:30 +0000