Tigers interview Hinch for opening (sources)

Detroit Tigers

Tony La Russa was in the White Sox dugout as manager when Jack Morris threw his no-hitter for the Tigers on April 7, 1984. Now, La Russa is back.
AJ Hinch was in the Tigers’ dugout at Comerica Park as a backup catcher when Detroit avoided a historic 120-loss season

Tony La Russa was in the White Sox dugout as manager when Jack Morris threw his no-hitter for the Tigers on April 7, 1984. Now, La Russa is back.

AJ Hinch was in the Tigers’ dugout at Comerica Park as a backup catcher when Detroit avoided a historic 120-loss season by beating Ron Gardenhire’s Twins on the final day of the 2003 season. Is Hinch about to return in a different post?

While the White Sox provided baseball with its first offseason headline by hiring — or rehiring — the 76-year-old La Russa as manager, they also might have cleared the way for the Tigers to hire Hinch for their managerial vacancy. Detroit interviewed Hinch on Thursday, sources told MLB.com.

The Athletic’s Cody Stavenhagen first reported that Hinch was interviewing with the Tigers.

The Tigers spent the past four weeks interviewing a plethora of candidates for the chance to replace the retired Gardenhire. They couldn’t talk to Hinch while he served his season-long suspension from Major League Baseball coming out of the Astros’ sign-stealing investigation. But Detroit’s interest has been clear since general manager Al Avila’s season-ending media session, when he confirmed that Hinch was on his list of candidates.

With the World Series over, Hinch is now free to talk with clubs. And now that the White Sox opening is filled, the Tigers and Red Sox have the two remaining managerial vacancies. The rebuilding Red Sox have been tied in rumors to a potential reunion with Alex Cora, their manager in their World Series-winning season of 2018 as well as ’19, but they’ve spent October interviewing other candidates as well, including several Tigers candidates.

The Tigers have deeper ties with Hinch than his playing history. When Hinch worked a decade ago in the Padres’ front office as their director of pro scouting, one of his top scouts was Scott Bream, who is now the Tigers’ director of pro personnel and a trusted assistant to Avila. Bream and Hinch remain close. While Hinch served as Astros manager from 2015-19, Bream often went through Houston when the Tigers were in town and served as the team’s representative for the trip.

Likewise, Hinch knows some about how the Tigers work. He hired Don Kelly out of their scouting department to join his Astros coaching staff in 2019. He managed Justin Verlander for two-plus seasons following the right-hander’s trade from Detroit to Houston on Aug. 31, 2017.

Hinch finished with a 481-329 record in five seasons as Astros manager. He won 101-plus games in each of his final three seasons, and he never finished with a losing record. Add in two years as Diamondbacks manager in 2009 and ’10, and Hinch owns a 570-452 record in seven Major League seasons. He helped turn a collection of talented Astros prospects into a perennial contender.

The one question on Hinch’s record will be the sign-stealing investigation, which determined that he neither participated in nor supported the sign stealing — he damaged a monitor near the dugout twice to note his disapproval — but he also didn’t stop it.

Avila acknowledged the issue with Hinch and Cora in his end-of-season remarks earlier this month, but he indicated that they’re paying their penalty.

“Obviously, the cheating scandal is not a good thing,” Avila said at the time. “They’re serving their suspensions, and once the suspensions are over, they’ll be free to continue their careers.”

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck’s Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

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