Detroit — You could sense the progress from Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire pretty early in his Zoom chat with the media before Tuesday’s game.
The voice was strong and clear and, best of all, the appetite was back.
“Just had a ham and cheese sandwich, a grilled ham and cheese,” Gardenhire said. “It’s the first thing I’ve put of any substance in my body. We’ll see how that goes.
“But it’s been a tough couple of days, I can tell you that.”
Gardenhire missed the last two games (Sunday and Monday) in the Labor Day weekend series in Minnesota because of a stomach virus.
Fortunately, Gardenhire has his offseason home in the Minneapolis area, so he was able to rest up in familiar quarters.
And, yes, it being 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic still raging, Gardenhire did get tested and it came back negative, which everyone suspected all along.
“I ended up having a home test,” Gardenhire said of the protocol once someone in the organization has symptoms of any kind of illness. “A guy came to my house and did the nose swab and everything came up negative, which we all thought it would. I haven’t been outside of my house or the ballpark. I don’t do those kind of things.
“I just think I ate something wrong and it didn’t do very well in my system, and that’s where I was. It was a stomach virus, whatever you want to call it, but I think it was a little more than a virus.”
Still, even though he didn’t think there was anything wrong, Gardenhire was obviously glad to hear about the negative test for coronavirus.
“It was a relief,” Gardenhire said. “You never know in this age. I got to the ballpark and sat in my office before we traveled (back to Detroit). You go through a lot of things and that’s what is happening and that’s why we’re trying to do and not have any problems with our ballclub.”
Bench coach Lloyd McClendon took over the managing duties in the two games against the Twins. The experience and baseball knowledge the entire coaching staff possesses gives Gardenhire plenty of reason to be comfortable.
McClendon is praised by many of the team’s hitters for this approach and ability to communicate, and has been a big factor in the development, particularly this season, of young outfielder Victor Reyes.
The Tigers split the two games Gardenhire missed, winning Sunday and losing Monday to the Twins.
“When you have a coaching staff like that, like Lloyd taking over and he’s really good at what he does, he’s got great experience as a manager and he understands the game as anyone,” Gardenhire said. “All of my coaches do. They’re all good coaches and I trust them.
“There was no way I could sit on the bench with them during those games (in Minnesota). I needed to be in my office and then I went home one day and they took care of it and did everything right.”
Gardenhire, 62, has fought through prostrate cancer. He is considered high risk for COVID-19. Gardenhire talked last month, while on road trip through Cleveland, about the difficulty this particular season, with the threat of the coronavirus swirling in the background, the compacted, rigorous schedule, and the overall difficulty managing this season.
Through it all, Gardenhire has been particularly careful this season, remaining either at home or in his hotel room on the road when not at the ballpark.
“I just have to take care of myself,” Gardenhire said. “I know my age and I know what is going on in this world and I have to be very concerned, so that’s why I stepped back and stayed away.
“But I feel good today and that’s kind of where I’m at.”