Italy invades Phoenix, Mike Piazza handicaps the papal election

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Today’s matchup pits Team Italy against the A’s. The Italian team got here about an hour or so ago and is working out and taking BP now. They look like every other baseball team you’ll see. Except on this one, Nick Punto is probably the second best player. That doesn’t happen very often.

Oh, and one of their coaches might be their third best player:

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Piazza seems to be in a good mood. He’s got a son on the way. He’s got a book out. Life is good. He’s also, apparently, a man of the world. I was talking to A’s broadcaster Vince Cotroneo when Piazza came over. They’ve known each other a while, and they began a friendly chat about things Italian. The subject of the new pope came up and Vince asked him “who he has in the pool.”

“I sort of like the old guy from Ghana,” Piazza said.  I guess he means Peter Turkson. “Old guy from Ghana” pretty much saps HBT’s knowledge of the higher reaches of the Catholic church.

I watched Italian BP for a while. This is probably my favorite BP pitcher in the history of forever:

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I don’t know who he is. He’s wearing number 15 but the press information doesn’t list a player or coach on the Italian team with that number. I’m just going to pretend he slid here from another dimension. A dimension in which some baseball player suddenly found himself in a Fellini movie.

If you’re scoring at home here is the Italian lineup:

Nick Punto, 2B
Chris Denorfia, CF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Alex Liddi, 3B
Chris Colabello, DH
Mike Costanzo, LF
Mario Chiarini, RF
Drew Butera, C
Anthony Granato, SS

The starting pitcher is John Mariotti. Earlier it was listed as Luca Panerati. During his presser this morning, A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked if he knew anything about Panerati. Melvin paused for a few seconds and said “… I know he’s a pitcher.”

This should be a fun game. Can’t wait until the national anthems.

Tigers manager Gardenhire announces immediate retirement

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
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DETROIT — Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire announced his immediate retirement barely over an hour before Saturday night’s game against Cleveland, saying he’s been “stressed out” and not feeling well.

The news came in an abruptly called video conference around 5 p.m. as Detroit prepared to play the Indians. A message of “Thank you, Gardy” was posted on the scoreboard at Comerica Park.

Bench coach Lloyd McClendon is taking over as manager for the rest of the season, which is scheduled to end Sept. 27. Detroit was 21-29 heading into Saturday night’s game and was unlikely to make the postseason.

Gardenhire, who turns 63 next month, was in his third season as Detroit’s manager after he previously had a 13-year run with the Minnesota Twins that included six AL Central titles.

He’s had to oversee a significant rebuild with the Tigers that included a 114-loss season in 2019.

Gardenhire missed time recently because of stomach issues, and he indicated Saturday that the stress of managing was difficult.

“It’s been wonderful here, but I also know I have to take care of myself,” Gardenhire said. “When you come to the ballpark, and you’re stressed out all day, and your hands are shaking, that’s not fun. I’ve got grandbabies, I’ve got kids that I need to take care of, and my wife, and as I told Al, I’m going to step back and take care of myself and try to get healthy.”

General manager Al Avila said he made a routine visit to Gardenhire’s office Saturday, when the manager told him about the decision.

“I’d like to congratulate Gardy on one of the best managerial careers, really in major league baseball history,” Avila said. “His leadership and hard work over the last three seasons has put us in a position to get closer to our goal of bringing back winning baseball to Detroit.”

Gardenhire took over for longtime Twins manager Tom Kelly and managed the team from 2002-14, going 1,068-1,039. Minnesota won the division six times in his first nine seasons at the helm, and he was American League Manager of the Year in 2010.

He was a bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks before returning to the AL Central with the Tigers for the 2018 season. Detroit was 132-241 under Gardenhire.

Gardenhire played five seasons in the majors, all with the New York Mets, and was a light-hitting infielder in the 1980s.