The Detroit Tigers announced Saturday manager Ron Gardenhire is retiring immediately and will not return for a fourth season.
Gardenhire, who turns 63 in October, is 132-241 (.354 winning percentage) in two-plus seasons with the Tigers. He signed a three-year deal when he was hired before the 2018 season, the first full year the team embraced the rebuild.
Lloyd McClendon will manage the team the remainder of the season. The Tigers (21-29) entered Saturday with eight games remaining.
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“This afternoon, when I got here to the office, I went to Gardy’s office to talk baseball stuff,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said. “At that point, we started talking, and he mentioned to me he was going to retire. He wasn’t feeling well from a health perspective.”
Gardenhire, a cancer survivor, said he originally thought about retiring at the end of the season. But as he talked to Avila, he said “I’ll step out right now.” He said he hasn’t felt well since dealing with a stomach virus earlier this month in Minnesota and recently has dealt with tremors in his hands.
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“I’ve got grandbabies and kids I need to take care of and my wife,” Gardenhire said. “Very tough decision. … But I had to do what’s right for me.”
Tigers CEO Christopher Ilitch released a statement roughly 30 minutes after Gardenhire’s retirement became official to thank him for his time leading the ballclub through the rebuilding process.
“On behalf of all of us with the Detroit Tigers, congratulations to Ron Gardenhire on a tremendous managerial career,” Ilitch said. “One of the best baseball men around, we’re fortunate to have had Gardy lead our team for the past three seasons, and during this rebuilding period. He has done a great job in shaping the future successes I know our organization will see.”
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Gardenhire said his favorite memory with the Tigers was watching Victor Martinez get an infield single in September 2018 in his final at-bat in a Tigers uniform.
“I’ll never forget that,” Gardenhire said.
His .354 winning percentage makes him the least successful manager in Tigers history, one point behind Luis Pujols, who was 55-100 (.355) in just one season (2002).
The team flirted with a postseason bid this year, with an expanded field and a shortened season, but have all but been eliminated from contention.
“He took us through the toughest two years of the transition,” Avila said. “… His leadership has gotten us through this and … has put us in a position to bring winning baseball back to Detroit.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com 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.